HMRC misses out on £50m of stamp duty from Middle Eastern bank

Because it sued the wrong company … who were their lawyers?

HM Revenue & Customs has lost its bid to recover up to £50m in stamp duty from the sale of the Chelsea Barracks in 2007.
Three Court of Appeal judges decided that the tax office had pursued the wrong party for the tax.

The purchaser, a firm owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, had used a type of Islamic finance that meant a bank actually owned the property.

HMRC said it was “disappointed” by the ruling.

“The Court of Appeal ruling supports our view that SDLT [stamp duty land tax] is payable. We are disappointed that the decision makes that tax much harder to collect so we are considering an appeal,” HMRC said.

The judges’ decision is likely to reignite criticism of the complexity of the UK tax system, if HMRC itself can be caught off guard. It will also expose alternative financing arrangements to more scrutiny from tax campaigners.”

Austerity policies do more harm than good, IMF study concludes

“A strong warning that austerity policies can do more harm than good has been delivered by economists from the International Monetary Fund, in a critique of the neoliberal doctrine that has dominated economics for the past three decades. In an article seized on by the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, the IMF economists said rising inequality was bad for growth and that governments should use controls to cope with destabilising capital flows. …”

Axminster: Persimmon and Crown Estates meet the neighbours

DEVELOPERS have met with the people of Axminster face-to-face to discuss plans on a massive development to the east of the town.

Persimmon Homes had plans for a large development turned down in January 2015 and are now attempting to right that wrong by consulting with local residents over their plan for the land between Sector Lane and Chard Road.

Persimmon Homes said: “East Devon District Council have a newly-adopted Local Plan – Persimmon submitted proposals in the form of a planning application in January 2015 to commence the process of implementing the council’s strategy. EDDC refused the applications.

“We are aware that Axminster Town Council is preparing a Neighbourhood Plan and wish to hear how Persimmon’s proposal might contribute to that. We wanted to hear views in the issues that are important to Axminster.”

The application site forms part of the Local Plan and is allocated for mixed use. The site is available for the delivery 650 dwellings, employment land, community and open space facilities, a primary school and a north/south relief road. A road linking through the scheme would act as a relief road to traffic from the A358 Chard Road to the north and Lyme Road to the south.

At the public meeting Persimmon laid out some of the positives of the site and also how they will deal with some of the constraints.

They stated that the site benefits from its green surroundings, there are good existing road links to provide access, an existing public footpath provides walks to the countryside, plenty of views to the surrounding hills and a provision of a relief road would ease congestion in the town.

Persimmon said: “Existing significant trees and hedgerows on the site boundary will need to be protected; Weycroft Hall and Mill Brook at the north of the site both require sensitive treatment. Residential edges would be dealt with carefully and industrial edges of the site will need buffers.”

The Crown Estate, who owns around 50 per cent of the land Persimmon hopes to build on, were also at the public consultation and explained their role.

The Crown Estate said: “We are committed to working with the local community, other landowners including Persimmon and the district and town council to deliver the vision set out in the Local Plan.

“We understand there are realistic concerns about traffic levels and are looking at options to address this, including a possible relief road. We will look to carry out further public consultations on our emerging proposals later this year and will announce more details nearer the time.”

Plans for the original development were turned down in January last year for several reasons, including an unacceptable masterplan that had not been subjected to meaningful consultation.

There was also a failure to provide an acceptable level of affordable housing.

Persimmon Homes will look to re-submit plans for the new development later this year factoring in details that have arisen from meeting with local residents.

Calderdale Tory Association has accounts seized

The chair of the Calderdale Conservatives Association has resigned after growing internal controversy over its accounts being submitted to the Electoral Commission.

A sourced leaked the resignation emails to Political Scrapbook this morning.

In an email sent yesterday afternoon by Charles Moran, ex-chair of the CVCA, said he was resigning after a “breakdown in relations” with the MP and two officers of the Association.

But the main reason for his resignation seems to be launch of a criminal investigation into financial irregularities at the Association.

An email from Councillor Rob Holden, Deputy Chair of the Calder Valley Conservatives, leaked to Political Scrapbook, says that West Yorkshire police seized the accounts in connection with their enquiries.

West Yorkshire Police released a statement to Political Scrapbook this afternoon:

“Police in Calderdale have been made aware of an allegation of financial irregularity. A criminal investigation has now been launched to examine this allegation, and is its early stages.”

In a phone conversation with Political Scrapbook this afternoon, deputy chair cllr Rob Holden confirmed the resignation and the email. He added:

“All I can say right now is that West Yorkshire police have mine and the Association’s full cooperation.
The blog Impolite Conversation claims that Craig Whittaker MP’s office is to be investigated next, but we could not confirm that.”

The emails below give more insight into why the chair resigned, and why West Yorkshire Police is now investigating.

More on this developing story soon…



Subject: Resignation CVCA
Sent: 26 May 2016 14:03
From: Charles Moran
To: Rob Holden, Jasbir Singh
Dear Rob

It is with regret that I am writing to you to tender my resignation as Chairman of CVCA as of today’s date.

As you are aware, it has taken some time to get to the bottom of the Association’s finances, a task you requested be carried out last October.

Whilst there are still outstanding issues with the accounts I have submitted to the Electoral Commission,it is a best estimate and I have also copied it to Andy Stedman at Compliance.

The reason I have been unable to accurately finalise the accounts is as a result of missing records that have been requested from the Treasurer on several occasions and have not been supplied.

Attached to this email is a copy of a Chartered Accountant’s report which states that the accounts are not being kept as they should be. There are issues regarding the recording of cash receipts, lack of cash recording with no receipts issued for payments received, missing invoices and a lack of authorisation for expenditure. Clearly the Executive has a responsibility to correct these shortcomings.

You will also be aware of the toxic nature of my tenure as Chairman, due to the breakdown in relations with the MP and two officers of the Association. This situation is unacceptable and steps need to be taken to separate the Parliamentary Party from the Voluntary Party.

The fact that the MP is able to not only access the Association’s funds without authority from the Chairman or the Executive is a matter of grave concern. The Constitution is clear that all funds are controlled by the Association and its Executive, the fact that two officers are able to withdraw funds without authority is clearly in breach of the rules.

The fact that I, as Chairman, am not on the mandate and neither are you, the Deputy Fund Raising and Membership, is also a matter which I consider to be unacceptable.

Whilst it has been difficult for me as Chairman for the past year, I can’t help feeling disappointed that once again we have failed to take outright control of Calderdale Council, largely as a result of resources being diverted to a safe seat at the expense of target seats. We lost one of the target seats by less than a100 votes.

Above attached is a schedule of missing information, Chartered Accountant’s report and a copy of the estimated accounts that have been sent to Compliance and the Electoral Commission. Would you mind ensuring that these documents together with my email to you are circulated with the AGM calling notice to all members when you decide to call it please?




Subject: FW: Resignation CVCA
Sent: 26 May 2016 14:27
From: Rob Holden
To: Brighouse Campaign Centre

Dear member.

I am writing to you further to receiving the resignation of Mr Charles Moran as Chairman of the Calder Valley Conservative Association. I feel saddened that he has felt the need to stand down but thoroughly understand his reasons following his extremely poor treatment by certain members of the Association. The accounts (albeit incomplete) have finally been filed with the Electoral Commission.

Attached are the findings of the financial review that I requested back in October 2015 and I have to say that they do not make great reading as far as record keeping and propriety are concerned.

Yesterday the accounts of the Association were seized by the Police in connection with enquiries they are currently undertaking; the officer from the fraud and financial irregularities team has been assured that they will receive the ongoing co-operation of the Association with their investigation.

I am currently in discussions with the Area Chairman regarding the next steps concerning the AGM etc. and as soon as possible I will provide everyone with an update.

I would like to thank Charles for the considerable contribution that he has made to both the Association and the party as a whole and hope that now the financial review has been completed, lessons will be learned and we can move the Association forward.

Kindest regards

Councillor Rob Holden
Deputy Chairman, Calder Valley Conservatives.

Further information on MP and missing invoices here:

Local Lib Dems view:

PCC Hernandez voted in on party political ticket can stay at work but can’t talk politics!

Bad luck those of you who voted for a Tory Police and Crime Commissioner because she was … well … a Tory because now she can’t talk about politics.

A newly-elected police and crime commissioner under investigation over election expenses can continue in her role, a panel has ruled.

Alison Hernandez faced allegations she failed to declare expenses as election agent in Torbay in the 2015 Election.
At an emergency meeting, the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Panel said she was still able to discharge the functions required of her role.

It would continue to scrutinise decisions made by Ms Hernandez.

The panel also told her to stop making political statements.
In its recommendations, the panel said: “The panel notes that whilst the commissioner is subject to allegations she has not been charged with a criminal offence.”

It says that the functions of the police and crime commissioner are able to be discharged by Ms Hernandez.
Read more on this story as it develops throughout the day on our Local Live pages.

The meeting heard a series of hostile questions from the public and councillors into how Ms Hernandez could continue in office with investigations into undeclared election expenses ongoing.

Miss Hernandez told the panel she had done nothing wrong and there was no legal requirement for her to stand aside while the investigation was ongoing.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission will also review the allegations.

The referral to the watchdog was made by the chief executive of the office of the police and crime commissioner, Andrew White.

The watchdog will decide whether to investigate, or refer the matter to another police force.”

Should have voted Independent!

“Businesses and communities across the Great British Coast could be sailing towards a cash windfall, ministers announced today (23 May 2016).

Creative coastal entrepreneurs can from today bid for a share of £90 million government funding available UK-wide over the next 4 years to support their plans to reel in jobs and revitalise our much-loved seaside areas.

This latest cash boost for coastal communities is all part of the government’s efforts to rebalance the economy and help all areas of the country thrive.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark said:

Our Great British Coast has enormous economic potential and we are determined to see it thrive all year round.

That’s why today we’re investing £90 million in exciting new business ideas across our much-loved seaside areas – bringing not just a wave of enthusiasm but also creating thousands of good new jobs too.

And with grants of up to £4 million each available, I’d urge our coastal entrepreneurs and communities to get involved.

Communities Minister Mark Francois said:

Over the past few years we’ve seen a sea-change in investment across our Great British Coast – with today’s £90 million building on the £120 million we’ve already pumped in.

This money is all about generating jobs and boosting businesses, so if you’ve got a good idea we want to hear from you.

We’re rightly proud of our country’s seaside past but this new money means that we can also look forward to its bright future. …”

Hinkley C: Would you buy a used car from EDF?

Hinkley Point: French unions put nuclear plant’s future in doubt

The future of the planned new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point remains in doubt as key French unions still oppose the project, BBC Newsnight has learned.

EDF, which would build the plant, had delayed a decision on the project in Somerset until the summer while it consulted French union representatives.

The company, which is 85% French state-owned, had hoped to win support from a committee of workplace representatives.
But the committee said staff had not been reassured about the plant’s costs.

Trade union representatives hold six of the 18 seats on EDF’s board.

‘Several reservations’

Jean-Luc Magnaval, secretary of the Central Works Committee that EDF consulted with, told Newsnight that staff feared the cost of the project would cripple EDF.

He said: “We have reservations about several aspects of the project: organisation, supply chain, installation, and procurement.

“The trade unions are unlikely to give their blessing to the project in its current state.

“We are not reassured by the documents we have received. We have been given a marketing folder, not the full information we require.

“We got the documents on 9 May – we are sending EDF a request for more explanations.”

On Monday French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron wrote to MPs on Westminster’s energy select committee to reassure them the French government remained committed to the project.

But Mr Macron added: “It is also necessary, in the interests of all, that EDF follows due process before committing itself to an investment of this magnitude.

“The consultation of the Central Works Committee brings legal robustness on the decision.”

Chinese backing

EDF chief executive Vincent de Rivaz also told MPs on the committee that he did not know when a final decision on the project would be made.

Earlier this month, French President Francois Hollande said he would like the project to go ahead.

Hinkley Point C, which would provide 7% of the UK’s total energy requirements, had originally been meant to open in 2017.

But it has been hit in recent months by concerns about EDF’s financial capacity to handle the project.

While one third of the £18bn capital costs of the project are being met by Chinese investors, Hinkley Point would remain an enormous undertaking for the stressed French company.

In March, Thomas Piquemal, EDF’s chief financial officer, quit after his proposal to delay the project by three years was rejected by colleagues.

In April, French Energy Minister Ségolène Royale also suggested the project should be delayed.

Much of this scepticism is the consequence of problems in constructing nuclear power stations to similar designs elsewhere.

A plant being built by EDF at Flamanville in Normandy, northern France, has been hit by years of delays and spiralling costs.

‘Red line’

Furthermore, since the company is nationally owned, the decision is also subject to political pressure.

A former energy adviser to the French government told Newsnight that while EDF did not technically need the backing of the trade union representatives, it would be very difficult, politically, to go ahead without it.

Yves Marignac said: “Going for it would for the government be crossing a red line in their relationship with the trade unions, which would make it really difficult for the government, particularly with the perspective of the next general election when they will need to get some support of the trade unions.

“Making a decision for the project is not possible right now. The political costs and the costs for EDF’s financial situation are too high right now.”

Devolution, councillors, secrecy and scrutiny

Councillor involvement generally

It is surprising that engagement with local councillors seems to have been so patchy.

By and large, councillors have been shut out of the process, with even overview and scrutiny members having to rely on periodic (and infrequent) updates from of officers to keep themselves up to speed.

This is the fault of the system, and the framework (or lack of it) for negotiation between local government and central Government, designed as it is to dissuade the wider sharing of information beyond a carefully selected group.

Even where attempts have been made to engage backbench councillors in a more consistent way (for example, in Norfolk and Suffolk, the LGiU was contracted to travel the area convening awareness-raising seminars) this has principally been about information-sharing rather than dialogue.

Occasional reports to OSCs [Overview and Scrutiny Committee(s)] clearly have not been enough, merely for non-executive councillors to note progress, rather than being part of discussions, negotiation or provision of checks and balances. The role of O&S has been marginalised through perceptions around the complexity, secrecy or urgency of deal making.

This is dangerous for three reasons.

Firstly, the buy-in of a wider range of councillors is crucial to success.

Secondly, the involvement of councillors – beyond receiving updates – is important in ensuring that deals, once they are done, are robust enough to succeed. This robustness is something that can only be tested through effective scrutiny and oversight.

Thirdly, changes in personnel can have a significant effect on the direction of negotiations. Without wider buy-in and dialogue, following an election (or even a by-election) resulting in a change in political control, or any other internal group matter that could result in a new leader, carefully constructed agreements or negotiations could begin to unravel.

It is instructive to bear in mind that in our own engagement with the public, and through the Citizens’ Assemblies, members of the public expressed the strong view that councillor scrutiny should play a critical role in the devolution process.

There are probably a range of different mechanisms that councils, individually and collectively, need to deploy to involve their councillors. Importantly, such involvement needs to be planned – following the sequence set out in the main body of the report above – to ensure that councillors have a stake at every stage in the process. These mechanisms are likely to be:

Engagement within Cabinet. Because negotiations are being led by Leaders, Cabinet members are likely to need frequent updating;

Engagement by leaders within political groups. To secure political buy-in from members of the same party;

Engagement between political groups. Frequent discussion between the leaders of majority and minority parties in local councils to share information, discuss concerns and head off disagreement and discord;

Engagement with scrutiny.

Sharing information, inviting comment and brokering discussion

– as we have discussed, this also provides a formal check and balance on the development and implementation of devolution deals;

Engagement amongst all members.

Other than at full Council, there needs to be sustained engagement with all members – at member briefings, a discussion event specifically convened for discussion of devolution issues, or similar.

All the forms of engagement listed above are probably required, and need to be planned for, for each stage in the sequence of the devolution process. If this seems time-consuming or resource intensive, it has to be placed against the risks of devolution deals or negotiation processes unravelling for want of broad buy-in.

This engagement needs to be underpinned through the provision and use of high-quality evidence. Significant amounts of data will exist between the wide range of stakeholders involved in discussions. Councillors can use this to consider what they suggest about the outcomes that are planned to be delivered, and what this might mean about how governance works on the ground.”

Click to access CfPS-Devolution-Paper-v4-WEB-new.pdf

Devolution: “Cards on the table” report

The report quoted in the post below is here:

Cards on the table: English devolution and governance

It is a thorough and far-reaching document which most councillors should have read BEFORE they made decisions.

It makes the point that much has not been done and makes these points about what needs to be done:


Consider at what stage in the devolution process they currently stand; Evaluate and reassert what outcomes devolution will deliver to the area;

Agree on what characteristics / principles good governance will need to embody in order to achieve these outcomes;

Check whether effective governance systems are in place that meet those characteristics

– whether those systems are transitional (to manage the process of negotiation and design) or permanent (intended to apply when devolution deals are fully in place);

Ensure that strong data and information sharing – essentially, arrangements for meaningful transparency – is in place to support governance;

Ensure that governance builds in opportunities for meaningful accountability and for the transmission of views and opinions between those in the wider public sphere, and decision-makers.

Devolution must involve public and back bench councillors

“The Centre for Public Scrutiny has just launched a new paper on devolution in England, writes Ed Hammond.

Our report, Cards on the table suggests the different stages that local areas will have to go through in agreeing and implementing a devolution deals – highlighting the fact that there is a sequence to the process, with each stage in that sequence demanding its own unique governance response. Many of these responses focus on the need to bring in the wider member corps, and the public, to discussions on devolution and its outcomes.

Member and public involvement is critical to the success of English devolution, but it is an element that until now many areas have filed away as “too difficult”. It never seems to be quite the right time to do it. Too early, and plans and proposals may be too vague. Too late, and the decisions may already have been made. In between, many of the negotiations with government are required – by government – to be private. What space is there?

We think that there is more space than you might think, but to take advantage of the opportunities requires a different mindset to that which has been prevalent up until now. Primarily, there are big opportunities to engage non-executive councillors and the public at the earliest stage – to talk to them about “the place” and what they want it to look like in the future. Having discussions with a wide group of people about the future, and their place in that future, helps to do three things:

It places those aspirations front and centre when it comes to working up more concrete plans for devolution;

It frames the future debate and the way that proposals can be presented to government. A proposal for devolved powers which ultimately derives from a local conversation about what devolution might be able to achieve could end up more robust than one which is based on a discussion amongst a comparatively small number of elected councillors and officers;

It engages with the art of what is politically possible. Early discussion of proposals – even using those discussions to frame what the proposals look like – makes it more likely that they will be grounded in reality. Such discussions will highlight where a gap may exist between public expectations and reality – allowing politicians to act to bridge this gap.” …