London Dig Uncovers Roman-era Skulls

An archaeologist digs out a possibly Roman skull from the site of the graveyard of the Bethlehem, or Bedlam, hospital next to Liverpool Street Station in the City of London. The dig is on the site of the future ticket hall for the Crossrail station at Liverpool Street.

A similar puzzle applies to the Conservative-led national government’s welfare reform programme, especially as it is affecting London: do the politicians responsible seriously think it will save money and help unemployed people get jobs, or do they know perfectly well that neither will occur and are simply pretending otherwise because orchestrating hatred of “scroungers” gets you votes? Richard Godwin, the eloquent Evening Standard columnist, persuades me that where welfare thinking is concerned the answer is a bit of both . He can’t shake the impression that welfare secretary Iain Duncan Smith is a well-meaning, innumerate, dimwitted fantasist while chancellor George Osborne is just a piece of work. I’m inclined to agree, though this important distinction becomes pretty academic when we consider the evolving, damaging impact of the welfare changes so ruthlessly executed by both men – backed, of course, by “Good old Boris” Johnson – on the ground. London Councils, the umbrella body representing the capital’s boroughs , has calculated that the financial drain of the government’s total benefit cap on its members could be a gigantic 25m a year – roughly double what it costs them to empty Londoners’ bins every month. Its latest report tracking the consequences of Osborne and IDS’s policies claims that the cap could result in 4,600 of the 40,000 homeless London households living temporarily in the private rented sector being unable to pay their rent. The law requires the boroughs to make up the shortfall in such cases. The report calculates this would average 105 per household per week. London Councils chair Jules Pipe, who also leads Hackney Council, says that previous benefit changes have not led to reductions in rents , resulting in an increases in arrears and evictions. This has added to the number of homeless people the boroughs have to help. Just a small additional rise in the number of urgent cases could, he concludes, “result in tens of millions of pounds being drained away from essential services to cover the cost.” The report also warns of further pressure being heaping on the boroughs by the deeply unpopular “bedroom tax” and the introduction of the much-delayed Universal Credit system, and says that safety net provision is nowhere near adequate. Pipe wants a “full and fair assessment” from the government of the costs of welfare reform for London’s local authorities, but I’ve feeling he shouldn’t hold his breath. Another important argument in the report is that the cost of temporarily housing homeless people will simply be transferred from central to local government. A while back, a London Councils policy sage I spoke to defined localism as “central government passing its spending cuts on to us.” It’s getting harder and harder to disagree.

London’s Heathrow to face cap on charges by UK regulator

London’s Heathrow airport had submitted a plan to the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) seeking to raise tariffs for airlines by 4.6 percent above inflation, as measured by the retail prices index (RPI), for the five years from April 2014. Instead the regulator proposed not allowing prices to rise by more than inflation. “Tackling the upward drift in Heathrow’s prices is essential to safeguard its globally competitive position,” CAA Chairman Deirdre Hutton said in a statement as the agency published its final proposals for consultation. Heathrow, whose owners include Spain’s Ferrovial and the sovereign wealth funds of Qatar, China and Singapore, slammed the CAA’s proposals, arguing that a price cap would limit its returns and make investment unattractive. “The CAA’s proposals risk not only Heathrow’s competitive position but the attractiveness of the UK as a centre for international investment,” the group said in a statement. Carriers using Heathrow, including British Airways parent IAG have in the past criticised the airport for its high fees. Heathrow warned, however, that the cap on its charges would create a less attractive environment for investment in Britain’s aviation facilities and mean less funding would be available for a new runway. London is facing an airport capacity crunch and needs to build a new runway to add flights to fast-growing economies and ensure it does not miss out on billions of pounds of trade. Under the CAA’s new proposals, Heathrow’s rate of return on capital investment would decline to 5.6 percent in the post-2014 period, from a level of 6.2 percent between 2008 and 2014, the company said. The CAA said it was satisfied with a plan by London’s second airport Gatwick, which has proposed to raise average prices by 0.5 percent above RPI for seven years. Gatwick Airport Ltd said in a statement that it cautiously welcomed the CAA’s proposals. The CAA said in September it would defer making a judgement on how to regulate London’s third airport, Stansted.

The skulls and pottery shards found with them may have collected in a bend of the old river, having washed down from a nearby burial ground. The Roman skulls and pottery are just the latest in a staggering number of archaeology marvels that have been uncovered by the $23 billion (14.8 billion) subterranean Crossrail engineering project . The project aims to create a new underground rail line beneath London. (See “London’s Underground Revealed.” ) The finds cut across historyeverything from 9,000-year-old Mesolithic stone tools, to medieval plague pits, to a 16th-century graveyard associated with the notorious Bedlam Hospital . Containing some 3,000 graves, the graveyard was also found near Liverpool Station, in the vicinity of the Roman-era skulls. So what are the scholars who uncovered these storied skulls saying about their find? We asked discovery team archaeologist Don Walker of the Museum of London Archaeology . What is the associationif anywith Boudicca’s rebellion? It has been suggested that previous finds of skulls dating to this period may belong to victims of the rebellion, and beheading is certainly not unheard of in Roman Britain. This is a possibility that must be considered but cannot be satisfactorily addressed until full analysis of all material is complete. A quick look at some of the unwashed skulls revealed no evidence of injury around the time of death.

London Whale Lifts U.K. Regulator to Highest Fines in a Decade

Regulator to Highest Fines in a Decade By Suzi Ring – 2013-10-04T15:11:31Z The U.K. finance regulator recorded its largest month of fines in more than a decade in September, buoyed by a 137.6 million-pound ($221.2 million) penalty against JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) over the London Whale debacle. Industry fines totaled 169.5 million pounds last month and brought total penalties from the Financial Conduct Authority in 2013 to 339.5 million pounds, according to statistics published today by Wolters Kluwer NV (WKL) , Europe s largest tax and legal publisher. The year-to-date total is larger than any other full year since 2002. The regulator fined JPMorgan as part of a probe into losses exceeding $6.2 billion on a derivatives position built by a trader who came to be known as the London Whale because his bets were so large. The past year has also seen the regulator punish banks embroiled in the scandal over rigging of the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor. The FCA is endeavoring to keep up with the international trend towards greater levels of fining and is continuing the trajectory started in the U.K. by the Financial Services Authority in its latter years, said Barnabas Reynolds, a London lawyer at U.S. law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP. The FSA became the FCA in April this year. FCA fines increased considerably last year hitting 313.4 million pounds at the end of 2012 compared with 66.1 million pounds in 2011.