Morning papers: EU banks press to renew lifeline

More than a year before a key European banking-rescue programme is set to end, banks are starting to lobby for a plan to replace the old one, a sign of how rickety the continent’s financial system remains, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Starting in late 2011, the European Central Bank led by Mario Draghi doled out roughly €1trn (£839bn) of emergency three-year loans to hundreds of European banks. The programme, known as the long-term refinancing operation, or LTRO, was designed to save ailing banks that were struggling to borrow money through ordinary channels.

Pensions funds urged not to put money into socially responsible investments

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One of the City’s best known figures on Wednesday urged those handling pension funds not to put money into socially responsible investments, reports The Guardian.

Terry Smith, a former top broker and now chief executive of his own Fundsmith asset management business, said ethical funds performed badly and were riddled with internal contradictions.

George Osborne says Help to Buy ‘no weapon of mass destruction’ as he dismisses housing bubble fears

George Osborne has insisted that the Government’s flagship financing schemes are not “weapons of mass destruction” that are pumping up a fresh property bubble, reports The Daily Telegraph.

The chancellor sought to allay mounting concerns that Funding for Lending and the Help to Buy scheme have not just helped the UK’s housing market but are overheating it too.

British workers caught in slow lane as G7 rivals surge ahead

British workers have underperformed their international peers by the widest margin in nearly two decades, official figures revealed yesterday, reports The Times.

The average hourly output of a British worker last year was 29 percentage points behind the average American and 24 points less than the average French or German employee, the Office for National Statistics said.

Business rates ‘inconsistent’ with Coalition pledge to build competitive tax system

The Government is damaging the high street by charging businesses the highest commercial property tax in Europe, a levy that is “inconsistent” with its pledge to create the most competitive tax system in the G20, retailers have warned, reports The Daily Telegraph.

In a briefing paper put together by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) to press the case for a reform of business rates, it said the tax on property is “no longer fit for purpose” and has become split from the health of the economy and individual businesses.