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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to http://pennystockpaycheck.com for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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Conservative council leader quits over ‘lie detector’ tests on benefit claimants

Category : Business

Fiona Ferguson resigns saying controversial Voice Risk Analysis software could do enormous damage to Cornwall council

The Conservative group leader at Cornwall council has quit her post over the use of “lie detector” tests on people claiming benefits.

Fiona Ferguson, who was responsible for corporate resources at the unitary authority, cited concerns about the use of voice risk analysis (VRA) software. In her resignation letter to Jim Currie, Tory leader of the council, Ferguson warned that using VRA would not help the council to pursue fraud and would be “extremely damaging to our reputation”.

She added: “It is clearly right that Cornwall council takes a strong line against people who deliberately mis-claim tax benefits but in this case I am more concerned about the impact on the vast majority of honest claimants.”

Ferguson claimed in her resignation email – which was placed online by councillors – that Currie had threatened to sack her from her post if she revealed the details of the lie detector test being used. She also announced that she was launching a petition to require any use of the technology to be approved by a larger meeting of the council.

Private outsourcing company Capita says on its website that VRA is “capable of identifying stress and emotion in a caller’s voice pattern”. The contract will cost the taxpayer about £50,000 but is intended to save many times that amount in preventing false claims, according to Cornwall council which states that research carried out in other areas of the country suggests 4%of single person benefit discounts could be false claims.

A council spokesman said: “As part of this ‘zero tolerance’ approach to fraud, the authority has commissioned Capita to carry out a review of all council tax payers who are receiving a 25% single person discount on their council tax bills.”

He said letters asking for claimants to provide information on their current circumstances have been sent to more than 30,000 households and telephone interviews will be carried out with a number of claimants to verify the details they have provided.

“These interviews will be carried out by trained assessors who will use specialist technology to assist this process,” he said.

Currie said: “There is tremendous pressure on the council’s budget and we need to do everything we can to prevent fraud. This will not affect people making genuine claims but we estimate that identifying and removing inappropriate claims could save the council at least £1m.”

Ferguson’s resignation letter noted that the techniques used by Capita were used by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) on a trial basis in 24 local authorities on the processing of housing benefit between August 2008 and December 2010.

A subsequent report said: “From our findings, it is not possible to demonstrate that VRA works effectively and consistently in the benefits environment. The evidence is not compelling enough to recommend the use of VRA within DWP.”

Capita said it was not commenting on issues surrounding Ferguson’s resignation. In response to the DWP report, the company said: “The selective use of VRA technology for the purposes of verifying high risk applications for council tax single person discount is a useful additional tool in the validation process of identifying fraudulent claims. The technology is not used in isolation.”

Southwark council in London has also reportedly used the Capita technology, to check households where a 25% council tax discount was being claimed. Harrow council said it used VRA software in a pilot scheme for housing benefit and council tax benefit claims, but stopped using it a number of years ago.

Coalition ‘could preside over lowest level of house building since 1920s’

Category : Business

Policy Exchange thinktank says 270,000 fewer new homes are being planned after abolition of regional targets in 2010

Local authorities in England have cut by 270,000 the number of new homes planned following the government’s abolition of regional planning targets in 2010, the Policy Exchange has claimed.

In a report the centre-right thinktank says that getting rid of regional spatial strategies (RSSs) had contributed to a situation whereby “the coalition could end up presiding over the lowest level of house building since the 1920s”.

The area most affected, it says, is the south-west, where the number of houses planned has fallen by 108,380, amounting to an 18% drop.

Regional spatial strategies were introduced by the last Labour government; English regions were given Whitehall targets for homes to be built.

The Policy Exchange calls the RSS system flawed as house completion targets were routinely missed.

Since 2010 councils have had new powers to set housing targets. The thinktank says that consequently the number of homes planned for England has fallen by 272,720, or 7%.

After the south-west, the regions most affected were the south-east, it says, where the number of homes planned had fallen by 57,049 (9%), and the West Midlands, where the number had dropped by 31,559 (8%).

The Policy Exchange says that even though the RSS targets were seldom reached, an introduction of lower targets would lead to fewer homes being built because the targets would determine the amount of land released for housing.

“As things stand, housing starts and completions are stuck at just over 100,000 a year, well below the total in local authority plans and very far below the sort of figure that might make a dent in the country’s acknowledged housing shortfall.”

The thinktank did not advocate the return of RSS targets to boost house building.

“Over-reliance on targets did not work before and it is unlikely to work in the future. A sustained increase in house building will depend on reforming many other aspects of the planning system, not just the numbers.”

The thinktank’s report calls for greater use to be made of empty buildings and brownfield sites, and incentives for neighbourhoods approving new housing.

But a spokeswoman for the communities department called the Policy Exchange analysis flawed for not allowing for the fact that RSS targets “had not worked”.

The spokeswoman said: “Top-down regional targets didn’t work and built nothing but resentment. It is meaningless to point to targets which were never going to be built. It was under regional strategies that house building fell to its lowest peacetime rates since the 1920s.

“As promised in the coalition agreement, this government is abolishing the ineffective, unpopular and bureaucratic tier of regional planning. Instead, it is simplifying the planning system and has introduced the new homes bonus to work with local communities, not against them.”

She also said that new housing supply was at its highest level since 2008, up 11% on last year.

Have a good Christmas, things can only get worse | Polly Toynbee

Category : Business

From local government to health, spending plans show the deepest cuts are yet to come. This is bad news for Labour too

If we survive the Mayan solstice apocalypse, we shall stagger out of this grim old year into a yet more gruesome one ahead. Flatlining now, the economy may dip again as the CBI reports weak Christmas sales to nervy customers. Compare that to George Osborne’s 2010 forecast of 3.5% growth for 2011 and the same again for 2012. Green shoots from Alistair Darling have long since died in Osborne’s permafrost.

Unemployment falling is welcome good news, but under-reported is the mass under-employment of 6 million people unable to find enough hours to support families without subsidy from tax credits. That’s why the social security bill soars. The more it rises as a direct result of zero growth, the more the government demonises anyone on any benefit, however sick, however hard they seek work. Yet only 2% of the Department for Work and Pensions budget goes on dole for the workless. The welfare reform bill means more cuts in the new year.

Things can only get worse. We know this because the spending plans are laid out for all to see, with deepest cuts still to come. Today is the NHS’s traditional pre-Christmas “fall-over Friday”, an office party A&E spectacular that gives young revellers a salutary reminder that the NHS is as precious to them as to the old. The danger is that 2013 may be “fall-over year” for the NHS. David Cameron was reprimanded by the chief statistician, Andrew Dilnot, for pretending he kept his pledge to “cut the deficit, not the NHS”. After two squeezed years, the new tariff hospitals receive for treatments has been announced as a 4% loss in real value.

The 212 new clinical commissioning groups launching next April and pointlessly replacing 151 primary care trusts, will get less than NHS inflation. What’s more, they must hold back 2% for “non-recurrent” expenditure, 0.5% for “contingency” and then create a 1% surplus. Expect those “contingencies” to be needed by next winter, when some hospital bankruptcies cause rushed closures and mergers, to public outcry.

Sir David Nicholson, lynchpin and grand emperor of the whole chaotic reorganisation from his NHS commissioning board command centre, has scooped back money this year to paper over the bumps, but few observers think he can do it for two more years. The final Francis report into the Mid-Staffordshire scandal will be a fresh reminder of what happens when hospitals face a financial crunch amid a culture of fear. The £3bn lost in Cameron’s gigantic re-disorganisation will be sorely missed next year. Combine these cuts with the rapid privatisation the Guardian reports this week and expect to find the NHS on the political sick list.

Local authorities, under-reported by a London-centric media, had their settlement this week from Eric Pickles, that master of jovial spite. While the average is a painful 2% extra cut, see how deprived Liverpool loses another 7.7% while David Cameron’s comfortable West Oxfordshire only sheds 1.1%. The poorest places, from Great Yarmouth to Barrow-in-Furness, are cut by 8.8%. Pickles says the settlements are “fair”, Deloitte says councils face the “greatest challenges in living memory” and some authorities are verging on bust.

How will the public respond to April’s contentious cuts to disability benefits, when tens of thousands of cars and mobility scooters are repossessed from those thrown off disability living allowance? David Cameron’s boast in parliament that the sixfold increase in food bank use means his “big society” is working may even affront his more complacent supporters. When disabled children and child carers have their meagre incomes cut again, that’s when Labour reckons many voters who now support shrinking the benefit bill may turn and say: “But I didn’t mean people like them.” If collecting council tax for the first time from the poorest homes descends into poll-tax chaos, people may question Cameron’s grip as well as his judgment.

The government may reckon stirring industrial trouble plays well, as a London tube strike on Boxing Day yet again makes unions unpopular. The Financial Times asks if, despite Vince Cable’s public protestations, his department is pressing on with the Beecroft abolition of working rights? The consultation time for mass redundancies will be cut from 90 to 45 days. Anyone taking an unjust employer to tribunal must pay £1,200 upfront, while employers can press “settlement agreements” to push out unwanted staff or swap their rights for shares, though Britain already has among the weakest working rights.

Meanwhile, despite recent protests, yet again tax avoiders are favoured with gentleman’s agreements by overstretched tax collectors. Anyone found cheating on benefits is penalised, but the wealthy in dispute over £3.5bn in borderline evasion are told this week they will get no penalty if they settle. The shrunken HMRC faces a mountain of 41,000 open cases, 5,000 of them over five years old. Expect tax avoidance indignation to surge, as the Resolution Foundation warns average household incomes will shrink yet again in 2013.

Some in Labour may clap their hands with relish at the prospect of a dreadful year for Cameron’s government, since so much of this trouble is self-inflicted. But none of it is good for anyone, with the greatest pain hammered into the weakest. The paradox for Labour is that the worse things get, the more likely it is to inherit a country in a miserable state. As it looks increasingly implausible that the Conservatives can win a majority, the take-over looks ever grimmer for a future Labour government. National debt soaring, local government failing its basic statutory duties, and the NHS in crisis is nothing to look forward to.

Labour is wise to be sparing with its promises until closer to the election: who knows yet which will be the most urgent priorities? Growth and jobs must come first, the economic success on which all else depends. Labour would certainly rebalance the burden of hardship as best it could. But let’s have no glee, no tribal relish in the terrible political year ahead: the Westminster game causes real suffering for too many. Besides, the worse things become, the more impossible expectations pile up for a wary future Labour government.

But we are good at setting woes aside briefly, as for that now distant Olympic extravaganza. So enjoy good cheer, make the most of these few Christmas days, and put off gazing into 2013 until you have to.

Housing crisis: minister announces plan to refurbish empty homes

Category : Business

Some 5,000 empty homes could be brought back into use as government battles to end housing shortage

Five thousand empty homes could be brought back into use with help from government funds to tackle the national housing shortage, the communities minister, Don Foster, announces on Monday.

Local councils and other providers, such as housing associations will be able to bid for money from a £300m fund announced in September to refurbish homes in often blighted areas.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has not revealed how much of the fund would be available for the scheme but promised a significant amount of it, and said that the homes should be ready to live in within three years.

Foster says he wants to go much further with the initiative, making more use of some 1m empty homes across the UK, of which a third have been empty for six months or more.

Critics have been warning that housebuilding has not kept pace with rising demand for several decades, and currently the shortfall is estimated to be more than 100,000 homes a year.

Last week the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg announced government intervention to speed up several stalled housebuilding projects, which could see a further 50,000 homes built.

Letters: BNP membership and employment rights

Category : Business

We disagree with the European court of human rights ruling that the dismissal of BNP councillor Arthur Redfearn was a breach of his human rights (Bus driver sacked for being in BNP wins case, 7 November). Redfearn was employed by Serco, a Bradford council contractor, and his job involved driving Asian adults and children with disabilities. The BNP is known to be a fascist and racist organisation, with leading members calling for an all-white Britain. BNP leader Nick Griffin has a conviction for inciting racial hatred after describing the Holocaust as a hoax.

Therefore members of such an organisation do present a threat to Asian and disabled people, and others targeted by fascism. Redfearn specifically presented a threat to Asian and disabled passengers. British local councils, paid for by the tax payer, have to adhere to race relations legislation. This should not be undermined by the ECHR. Membership of the BNP should be viewed in the same way as membership of the Nazi party.
Weyman Bennett and Sabby Dhalu
Joint secretaries, Unite Against Fascism

• Your report leaves perhaps the most important finding of the European court

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Michael Heseltine’s on the right road – so who’s going to take it?

Category : Business

The Treasury must hate the maverick former minister’s report, but it should realise his ideas have deep Tory roots

Michael Heseltine’s report on growth yesterday brought a bright shaft of old-time star quality back to the all-too-grey autumn political scene. There’s a real temptation, especially for those of us who wrote about him in his prime, to get all

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Thatcher’s outsourcing fantasy fails in reality

Category : Business

To date, almost all attempts at large-scale privatisation of local government have proved to be political poison

The outsourcing of individual council services to large private corporate companies such as Capita, Serco and BT has been common practice across local government for four decades. But the past two years have seen the emergence of a series of grandiose mega-schemes which aim to privatise most, if not all, of a council’s services at a stroke.

Outsourcing a local authority in its entirety is a long-held Tory municipal fantasy, first articulated by Margaret Thatcher’s local government minister Nick Ridley in the late 1980s. The private sector would run schools and social services, collect bins and council tax; councillors would meet once a year to draw up and sign the contracts. This supposedly business-like approach would deliver huge cost savings and efficiencies, went the argument.

Emboldened by the eviscerating cuts imposed on councils by the coalition government – 28% between 2011 and 2015 – large Tory-run authorities in Cornwall, Suffolk and Barnet, north London, have embarked on their own high profile versions of the Ridley model, claiming that impoverishment gave them no choice but to pursue large-scale privatisation.

To date, however, almost all have resulted in political failure. As the no confidence vote that removed Cornwall county council’s leader, Alec Robertson, on Tuesday proved, such schemes repeatedly prove toxic to the public.

Conservative administrations in Southampton, Bury and Brighton all put forward ambitious Ridley-ite outsourcing plans, but voters dumped them at the earliest possible opportunity, favouring Labour or, in Brighton’s case, the Green party.

In Suffolk a “backwoods Tory” revolt against its revolutionary “virtual council” outsourcing plans last year led to political meltdown and the controversial departure of its chief executive and leader.

Barnet, teetering on the brink of chaos after its chief executive quit two months before it votes on a huge £1bn plan to outsource almost all its services, could be next.

In Cornwall the county council’s £300m libraries-to-payroll outsourcing “joint venture” which would have seen 2,000 staff transferred to the private sector, came unstuck after a revolt by a coalition of independent and Tory councillors, which triggered the resignation last week of deputy leader Jim Currie, who oversaw the council’s finances. He described the outsourcing plans in his resignation letter as “unacceptable”. The joint venture, he said was “basically too large to control”. He added: “I could not leave local government with billions of pounds of Cornish taxpayers’ money at risk and on my conscience.”

The well-publicised G4S Olympics security fiasco has heightened sensitivity to the risks of outsourcing. In local government there is concern that mega-outsourcing cannot deliver the promised savings and efficiencies, leaves councillors powerless to control vital services and locks authorities into risky, long-term contracts at a time when further huge funding cuts are on the horizon.

Simon Parker, director of the New Local Government Network thinktank, says that, with money tight, some councils will not abandon outsourcing altogether, but he detects wariness over the bigger schemes. “There’s a certain amount of scepticism around.”

TUC March: 1. The northern alternative

Category : Business

Early this coming Saturday, 20 October, thousands of northerners will head for London on chartered trains to join the TUC’s March for A Future. In the first of four Guardian Northerner posts, Ann Czernik talks to Bill Adams, regional secretary for Yorkshire and the Humber TUC, about changes needed for a sustainable northern future

I go straight into the subject and in answer to my first question , Bill Adams smiles and says:

I’m marching to think about a new future for my kids, and their kids

He’s thought carefully about what it means to him to march on Saturday and he sums it up like this:

The government’s attitude to reducing the deficit is completely flawed – what they are doing is making things worse. We need to look at how we finance things in this country, our tax system, benefits and welfare. We need a new social contract between business, government and the workforce.

Throughout our interview, Adams glances frequently at the picture of his three children on his office wall, one a student and the other two with jobs but not sustainable ones, not good ones. His daughter, who has a history degree, manages a restaurant, but it’s not what she wants to do. Every interview she goes to elicits the same response – not enough experience.

His son manages a website, making sure the sales are up, and his other son is at still at university. Like millions of parents in Britain, he worries what a decade of austerity will bring for his children. He says:

Brendan (Barber) has led the opposition to austerity better than any politician. I really believe that Brendan has the right strategies. We’re not saying that we won’t rebalance the economy but it needs to be done in such a way that gets people paying tax rather than drawing benefits.

Outside his office there are reminder of the economic crisis. In the heart of the financial sector in Leeds, For Sale and To Let signs hang like bunting and there’s a queue outside the job centre. Adams has been involved with the trade union movement since leaving school at 16 to take up an apprenticeship. After years of low paid work,getting up at 5am, 6 days a week, he returned to full-time education in 1989, earning a law degree at the University of Central Lancashire.

Now, he jokes, he gets up at six and,works five days a week although I suspect Adams works round the clock. He began as a workplace union rep, then became an education officer and is now the TUC regional secretary of Yorkshire and the Humber.

He is deputy chair of his old university where applications dropped by 15% this year. Adams shakes his head and says that no-one believed him when he warned fee increases would deter applications from lower income or working class homes. He wants a new deal for young people:

Good jobs they could aspire to or damn good training vocational schemes. Francis O’Grady was right, she’s bang on with climate change, green energy,skills and investment for our young people. We should be saying – there’s no such thing as dole lad, you turn up here and you’re training to be an engineer. That to me is the long term, sustainability.

Adams would rein in the worst excesses of the banks and look for ways of providing sound financial help for ordinary people – there are 25,000 people in Leeds who don’t have a bank account. He sees a particular role for the north in this:

New ideas need to come in. There’s plenty out there. A British Investment Bank based in the north of England, for instance, would send out a message that says: ‘We’re not the poor neighbour.’ Leeds is the second biggest financial centre in the UK. We’ve got the right people, the rights skills – all sorts of people who could take that on.

As things stand, he reckons there’s virtually an investment strike – not just in the north but across the UK. Billions of pounds that could be used to rebuild the economy are sitting in banks. Adams believes that with investment, the north could develop strong local economies. The appetite for green technology for instance, with some of the biggest polluters in terms of power stations, cement works and chemicals based in the region. The legacy of the north’s expertise in heavy industry could breed world leaders in new technologies which merge engineering prowess with scientific advances to create sustainable, well-paid jobs in carbon capture and green energy.

In July, Drax Group announced plans to convert its North Yorkshire power station to run mainly on biomass, the same huge power station which recently completed the largest steam turbine modernisation programme in UK history, increasing overall efficiency and reinforcing its position as the most efficient coal-fired power station in the UK. But a pipeline out to the gas fields in the North Sea which would have reduced carbon by 40% was cancelled when the £1 million cost proved prohibitive. That saddens Adams:

We could have been a world leader in that technology. We’ve got Doggger Bank, wind and wave power – loads of platforms on which to build the north’s economy with good jobs. Not £6-an-hour jobs but work for engineers, technicians and skilled construction staff.

A think tank at Leeds city council recently asked: how are we going to get through the next few years without completely dismantling what the council does? One answer is through encouraging civic entrepreneurism – relocating companies, getting them to come here and invest in the economic front, taking advantage of the special skills that people in Leeds have in abundance – but also putting something back into the community as part of a long term plan.

Adams worries that:

A small elite of people own and run so much and outside of that no-one really has any power, any control over national politics, any stake in the companies or organisations that they work for. There is a sense of hopelessness, but I think that has generated a new type of activism as we’ve seen with Occupy, with student populations getting political again, fighting back on what has happened to them. A lot of unemployed young people are looking to get involved , to change things.

I’ve noticed how across the region so many groups being set up out of dismay and thinking: we can do something if we get together.

What do you think? Please comment at the end of Ann’s fourth post launching shortly.

Ann Czernik is a freelance photojournalist specialising in activism in the north of England. All photographs within the text are hers.

Animal exports suspended by Thanet council

Category : Business

Animal rights campaigners welcome move, which comes after debacle in which over 40 sheep had to be killed

Animal welfare campaigners were celebrating a victory on Thursday night as the only UK port to export live sheep and calves said it was suspending the trade following a debacle which prompted the destruction of more than 40 injured and lame animals.

In a statement, Thanet district council, which owns the port of Ramsgate, said it had temporarily halted live animal exports with immediate effect after the dramatic events on Wednesday.

The council, which has made no secret of its desire to see the trade disappear from its port, said that, while the suspension was temporary, “its lifting will depend on the construction of suitable facilities”. It added: “Providing the facilities will depend on the cost of building and running such a facility, and also whether it is a priority of the council in comparison with other issues.”

Ian Driver, a councillor and campaigner against live exports, said: “I would say the animal exporters shouldn’t hold their breath. The council has much more important priorities than supporting a barbaric trade.”

Ever since May 2011, when a former Soviet tank carrier by the name of Joline moved its trade along the south coast from Dover to Ramsgate, dozens of protesters have turned out every week to call for an end to the trade, which they say is unnecessarily cruel.

The RSPCA has kept up the pressure as well, carrying out lorry inspections along with officials from the government’s animal health agency to check animals were being carried on their journeys in acceptable welfare conditions.

But it was the debacle of Wednesday which prompted the council to move on the issue, as sheep from a lorry stopped at the port had to be shot on the advice of the RSPCA, The organisation’s chief executive Gavin Grant met government ministers on Thursday morning to press for a ban.

According to the RSPCA, 41 sheep from the lorry had to be shot due to severe lameness, two were put to sleep due to injuries, and two others were accidentally drowned during the unloading process. The lorry carrying the animals was stopped on Wednesday morning and declared unfit to travel due to faults in the vehicle. The RSPCA said the lorry had also been declared unfit to travel last month.

Council leader Clive Hart said: “Thanet district council recognises that live exports are a lawful trade, but we are also conscious of our responsibilities regarding the welfare of animals passing through our port. We are saddened to see animals arrive at our port in this condition and it underlines the need to implement EU regulations strictly in order to avoid any suffering caused to the animals.”

The council had previously sought legal advice over the exports, but was told it was obliged to act as a “free port” under the 1847 Harbours Act.

Philip Lymbery of the charity Compassion in World Farming hailed the move, adding: “We now look to Defra to finish it off, once and for all. We call on Defra to take permanent action to stop the live animal export trade reopening, in Ramsgate or anywhere else.”

The government says it is also opposed to the export of live creatures and would prefer to see animals slaughtered as close to where they are reared as possible, but cannot impose a nationwide ban on the trade due to EU legislation.

Campaigners warn that, without a blanket ban, the trade could move elsewhere in Britain.

Leeds has best month’s news for years – and not just thanks to Yorkshire’s Olympic gold

Category : Business

Millions of pounds for transport and the revival of stalled city centre developments bode well for the home of the Brownlee brothers

Leeds is unusually quiet this morning, with large numbers of loyal citizens down in London’s Hyde Park to cheer on our local triathlon stars, the Brownlee brothers.

Gold and silver for them would tighten Yorkshire’s grip on the Olympic Games’ medals table. The latest twist to the current, enjoyable focus on that is that because China’s super-swimmers trained in Leeds, we should count all their medals too.

That would put Yorkshire top. Sorted.

But the Olympics are not everything, as the more sceptical type of Guardian reader constantly points out on threads; and I want to tell you more about the context to this quote:

Leeds is having its best couple of months for several years. July has brought broad smiles to Metro (West Yorkshire’s transport authority) and Leeds city council

.

This has nothing to do with sport; it’s the start of the main article in the latest newsletter from Leeds Civic Trust. Pause to declare a (non-financial) interest: I am this excellent organisation’s president.

The writer of the piece, the trust’s long-serving and immensely Leeds-steeped Dr Kevin Grady, catalogues a very interesting series of current economic plusses. They confirm my view (shared by many more authoritative observers) that yet again, the city is showing the self-confidence and chutzpah which ultimately turn round recession.

Reason for joy 1: on 16 July the Department of Transport approved Leeds’ £235 million trolleybus scheme, confirming a Government contribution of £173 million. No one dared to be optimistic about this after our tram travails. The line from Holt Park to Stourton will go ahead.

Reason for joy 2: as reported previously in the Northerner, the Northern Hub has got full funding of £560 million, a package which will hugely improve rail links in the three northern regions. Alongside this, further funding has been approved for a new, southern entrance to Leeds city station, whose western entrance is a case study of the worst in human nature.

Reason for joy 3: John Lewis has signed up as anchor tenant for the long-awaited and often delayed Harewood development at the bottom of Eastgate. This has been a classic Leeds operation, with the private sector putting up money but the council also playing a vital part by agreeing to buy and demolish the hideous Millgarth police station which is such a blight on this area.

Reason for joy 4: Caddick developments are also going ahead with buying the remaining vacant land on Quarry Hill and restarting that stalled development.

None of these things are hype. The Harewood project alone has 30 shops and six restaurants and will open in 2016. Kevin also points to new proposals for Clarence Dock, work under way on planning Sovereign Square as KPMG’s new headquarters and even a pending new scheme for the Lumiere site. He concludes:

Despite the frequent news broadcasts predicting economic Armageddon, there are very positive signs of a measure of confidence returning. In spite of the recession, by 2018 the face of Leeds city centre looks set to show considerable and hopefully very impressive changes.

And of course, by then our city will have been renamed Olympia.