Sunday, 26 April 2009

European MEPs cut costs of sending texts abroad

Following a vote in favour of such a bill last month in the European Parliament, the European Parliament has now approved legislation which, as of July, will set a maximum charge of 10p a message for a UK customer sending a text from Europe. In addition, mobile phone operators will have to provide clearer information on the cost of surfing the internet and downloading data when abroad. Data roaming and call costs will also be going down. From next year mobile phone users will receive a reminder when they have spent 50 Euros - currently £45 – whilst using these services abroad. Below is a list of the new reduced charges:

  • Text message - 11 euro cents (10p; 14 US cents)
  • Data downloads - 1 euro per megabyte
  • Voice calls - 43 cents per minute (outgoing); 19 cents (receiving)

NOTE - price caps do not include VAT

If you would like some advice on using your mobile phone abroad, whether it be for sending texts, making calls or downloading data abroad, do not hesitate to call Plum on 0161 6223500.

Ofcom have put a pdf guide and a video together highlighting some key issues you should consider when using your mobile abroad

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Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Review of the 2009 Budget

It’s that time of year again…the Budget is announced! The Budget is the UK's annual financial statement, including a review of taxation levels and announcement of spending plans. It is the responsibility of, and delivered by, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, who works closely with his team of ministerial colleagues and senior civil servants.

Here are the main findings from the budget:

1. New top tax rate of 50% for those earning more than £150,000 as of April 2010
2. The number of people out of work in the UK rose by another 177,000 to 2.1 million between December and February.
3. UK government borrowing at £90bn

Here are some of the taxation levels and spending plans changes:

· Alcohol and cigarettes taxes to go up 2% from midnight - one estimate is that it would put 5p on the average pint of beer
· From next month until March 2010 motorists to get £2,000 discount on new cars if they trade in cars older than 10 years
· Income tax for those earning more than £150,000 to rise to 50% from April 2010
· Economy forecast to shrink 3.5% in 2009
· Government support for economy to protect 500,000 jobs
· Child tax credit to rise by £20 by 2010
· Annual limit for tax-free ISAs to rise to more than £10,000 for over-50s this year and for everyone else next year
· £525m for offshore wind projects
· Loss-making companies to be able to reclaim more taxes paid in the last three years
· Grandparents of working age who care for their grandchildren will see that work count towards their entitlement for the basic state pension

A full list of the changes can be found here

Click here for the full written budget and the chancellor’s speech

Confused by the budget will help you? Click here to get your questions answeredFor those interested in social media, HM Treasury has even set up Twitter and YouTube channels with extra information about the budget

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Happy Earth Day!

Today, 22nd April, is officially Earth Day. You are probably asking: what is Earth Day? Earth Day is a day set aside every year when a global effort is made to raise awareness of environmental issues. Throughout the day, thousands of Earth Day events will be happening around the world tomorrow to raise environmental awareness. Are you involved in or know of any Earth Day events near you? For more news about this day, visit the official Earth Day website here.

The 1st Earth Day was on Wednesday 22nd April 1970. According to the National Geographic, the date (22nd April) was chosen as it was the birthday of Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union, who shared the same views and goals as many environmentalists. Additionally, Earth Day apparently started in 1970 following environmental awareness campaigns from the founder U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson and the launch of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Google has even changed the Google logo on their page to help promote the day

The Energy Saving Trust has suggested 12 ways in which people can start being ‘greener’ today:

1. Let the sunshine in - cleaning windows and pulling back curtains during the day will help you take in more natural light and warmth from the sun.
2. When you do need the lights on, save money by installing energy saving light bulbs.
3. Adjust your heating controls - make sure your central heating is set for warmer weather, or switch it off all together.
4. Give your loft a makeover - clear out those dusty old boxes and add loft insulation instead. It could save you around £205 per year if there is no loft insulation there already.
5. Spruce up your kitchen appliances - a little cleaning can go a long way in helping your appliances run more efficiently.
6. Defrost your fridge and freezer for greater energy efficiency.
7. De-scale your kettle so it can boil water more quickly.
8. Clean your oven door - you'll be able to check on food without opening the oven and letting heat out.
9. Improve your outdoor lighting - for quick savings, switch to energy efficient light bulbs. You can also buy solar powered garden lights that use no mains electricity and so don't generate carbon dioxide (CO2).
10. Start composting - get your plants blooming with free fertiliser by composting food scraps, paper, cardboard and even the dust and dirt from your vacuum cleaner.
11. Set up a water butt - collect rainwater to use for washing your car or watering your plants.
12. Leave the car at home - by walking and cycling more you can save energy and enjoy the warm weather.

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Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Manchester Victoria rail station to get £9 million makeover

The northern Manchester rail station, which dates back to 160 years ago, is to have £9 million spent on it as part of a restoration project. The station provides the only train services available from Manchester to Oldham, taking commuters to Oldham Mumps, Werneth and Mills Hill, as well as Shaw and Rochdale.

A report in February by the Travelwatch passenger watchdog has stated that Victoria doesn't provide a welcoming environment for the five million passengers who use it every year.

Plans were unveiled 2 years ago proposing a £300 million redevelopment of the station, which would have involved the station’s leaking roof being replaced with a large new one in the shape of a boomerang to cover the station’s concourse, Metrolink platforms, and new shops, bars and restaurants, as well as offices and apartment blocks to be built behind the station and a new extension to Chetham’s School of Music at the front of the station. However, such redevelopment has been put on hold by the current economic climate.

Regardless of the economic climate, Network Rail says badly-needed improvements will still go ahead within the next 5 years, with the priority being a replacement for the leaking roof which was shattered by the IRA bomb in 1996. Jo Kaye, Network Rail’s new Route Director, has said "We are in talks with both the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive and Manchester council about a scheme that could potentially, be worth in excess of £7m. As well as the roof, there will be £2m of improvements to passenger waiting areas, toilets, the footbridge, and security measures."

Additionally, new passenger facilities (including customer information screens, CCTV and improved public address systems) are to be installed at seven railway stations in Bolton and Wigan: Bromley Cross, Daisy Hill, Farnworth, Lostock, Atherton, Hag Fold and Hindley.

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Lower VAT rate has boosted consumer spending

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), an economics consultancy, has reported that the VAT standard rate cut of 17.5% to 15% in December 2008 has caused more consumer spending, with some £2.1bn being generated in extra sales. The consultants have advised that increasing the rate back to 17.5%, as has been planned for January 2010, would, “cause a consumer downturn and choke the fragile economic recovery”. They have therefore recommended that the reduced VAT rate should be sustained until “July 2010, when the economy will be stronger” or even reduced a further 2.5% to 12.5%, as they had previously recommended last year.

However, those in opposition to the reduced VAT rate have argued that the cut is too small to make any difference to consumers' spending habits during the recession. This has been supported by a poll by the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) in February, which found that 97% of firms polled said the VAT cut had had "no impact at all."

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Interest rates stay put at 0.5%

After being reduced to 0.5% in March, the Bank of England has announced that interest rates are to be kept at 0.5% for the time being, the first time the rate hasn’t changed since last September. The Bank of England also reported that some £26.4bn has already been injected into the economy, as the Bank continues with its ‘quantitative easing’ lending process. This stall in changing the interest rates highlights how highly the Bank of England is prioritising its attempts to encourage banks to start lending again, therefore boosting credit and raising the ‘nominal spending’ (the cash value of spending) in the economy.

You can view a news broadcast of this news below

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97% of all emails sent are spam

A Microsoft security report has found that 97% of all emails sent are spam emails, which cover a wide range of subjects and advertisements. The report also showed that Office document attachments and PDF files are increasingly being targeted by hackers. The worldwide ratio of infected machines is 8.6 to every 1,000 uninfected machines, with the UK average being 5.7 to every 1,000 uninfected machines. However, Microsoft is encouraging people not to worry about the high levels of spam, as “the majority of that never hits your inbox” (Cliff Evans, head of security and privacy for Microsoft in the UK).

This report has highlighted the need to keep anti-virus software, anti-spam software, operating systems, web browsers and applications up to date with the latest versions. If you do not have anti-virus software or require advice on how your computers could be protected from such viruses, do not hesitate to contact Plum.

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Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Plum enhance their customer service through WLR3

Plum have improved their customer service offering by adopting WLR3. WLR3 (Wholesale Line Rental 3) is BT Openreach’s latest release of their system for the ordering and fault reporting of line rental services.

Initially the WLR3 service will be restricted to analogue lines and will be used for ordering temporary site lines and non-served premises (premium lines) but over time all lines including digital lines will be moved to the WLR3 service. There is no disruption to service when lines are changed from the existing WLR2 service to the new WLR3 service.

In addition all standard WLR analogue lines ordered and installed before 1 July 2009 will be charged at a special promotional rate of £75 plus VAT. This offer excludes premium lines.

For more information on WLR3 and the services that can be provided please call Plum Communications on 0161 622 3500

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The threat of the ‘Downadup' worm is diffused

Based on the evidence so far today, leading experts have fortunately downplayed the impact of the reported ‘Downadup’ worm. Those monitoring the progress of the worm across the globe have said that there had been no reports of any unusual PC behaviour today.

It had been reported that the ‘Downadup’ (also known as’ Conficker’ worm) would strike many computers today. It was believed that the worm would update itself and then try to connect to other computers through servers and networks, by generating 50,000 domains names and then picking 500 random domains to connect to. The worm is rumoured to trigger ‘poisoned’ machines to access personal files, send spam, clog networks or crash sites. It does this via a net connection or by hiding on USB memory drives used to transfer data from one computer to another. Once in a computer, it digs deeps, setting up defences making it hard to extract. Some FAQs regarding the worm can be found here.

To check whether your computer has been hit or not, it is recommended that you check your anti-virus vendor's website for disinfection instructions, restrict USB stick usage and block unnecessary traffic at your firewalls.

If you do not have anti-virus software or require advice on how your computers and networks could be protected from viruses and hackers, please contact Plum Communications.

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