Taylor Wimpey and Cranbrook … not a happy partnership

Taylor Wimpey’s Facebook page has some VERY unflattering comments about their houses in Cranbrook, and Cranbrook itself – poor construction, parking problems, not enough shops, no 1 bed properties, size of rooms disputed, checks not made, repairs not done …

Oh dear.

Powerful Tory committee blocked Cameron attempt to protect Commons staff alleges Evening Standard

“In the Evening Standard today Joe Murphy and Kate Proctor says the backbench Conservative 1922 committee opposed a bid by David Cameron to introduce a binding code of conduct for Tory MPs that would have strengthened the protections available to staff suffering harassment. Murphy and Proctor say:

The powerful 1922 committee of backbenchers mobilised against an attempt made by David Cameron to create a binding code of conduct that would have included a right for staff members to seek arbitration.

Mr Cameron attempted to persuade the speaker and other party leaders to support the measures following a sex scandal but his move met resistance from MPs, said sources.

The former prime minister then attempted to get his own MPs to sign up voluntarily.

But this was blocked by the 1922 committee, which saw the plan as a whips’ plot to impose “central control” on backbenchers.

The story is on the front of the Standard under the headline – Revealed: How backbenchers blocked bid to shield staff from sex pests.”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/blog/live/2017/oct/30/commons-sex-abuse-claims-dossier-intensifies-demands-for-ministerial-statement-politics-live

Could harassment scandal topple Government? Robert Peston thinks it might

Robert Peston:

“The growing fear among Tory MPs is that the sexual-harassment scandal is evolving into the equivalent of the MPs’ expenses debacle – and that it could bring down the government.

It’s all the fault of that bloomin’ list of MPs and their alleged misdemeanours that was compiled by Tory aides and was published by the Guido website overnight, with names blacked at.

The blacking out is not preventing reputational damage to a pair of cabinet ministers and several other senior members of the government.

Their names are being openly touted in Westminster – and it won’t be long till they are outed on social media, and on offshore websites.”

“Axe Valley health hub plan launched as campaigners fight hospital sell off”

“Campaigners will continue to fight plans to sell off Seaton Hospital and to support plans for a new health hub for the Axe Valley. …

[Independent East Devon Alliance] County councillor Martin Shaw [Seaton and Colyton] said: “Forty campaigners from the Axe Valley area met in Seaton this week to review the state of the campaign for the local hospitals.

“I told the meeting that while the battle to save Seaton’s hospital beds had been lost, it had put Seaton on the map in the forthcoming discussions about health services in the area.”

Mayor of Seaton, Cllr Jack Rowland, said that a meeting to set up a steering committee for an Axe Valley Health Hub would take place shortly.

He was encouraged that the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Trust was putting resources into this and he also pointed out that more than fifty services involving over a hundred staff were still based at the hospital.

Campaigners will continue to fight plans to sell off Seaton Hospital and to support plans for a new health hub for the Axe Valley.

In August, a vigil was held outside Seaton Hospital as the beds inside the hospital were closed, as protesters waved banners, shouted “shame”, and expressed their anger and sadness outside Seaton Hospital as the controversial closures of community hospitals began.

Plans to remove the beds from Exeter, Seaton, Honiton and Okehampton community hospitals have been met with strong opposition since they were confirmed in March.

The North, East and West (NEW) Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said the move will see more people being given care at home and save £2.6million.

Although the battle to save the hospital beds has been lost, a new campaign though has been set up in the Axe Valley area to support the development of a health hub in the region.

County councillor Martin Shaw said: “Forty campaigners from the Axe Valley area met in Seaton this week to review the state of the campaign for the local hospitals.

“I told the meeting that while the battle to save Seaton’s hospital beds had been lost, it had put Seaton on the map in the forthcoming discussions about health services in the area.”

He was encouraged that the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Trust was putting resources into this and he also pointed out that more than fifty services involving over a hundred staff were still based at the hospital. ‘Don’t let anyone say the hospital is closed’, he said.

The meeting, chaired by Paul Arnott of the East Devon Alliance, agreed that it was necessary to establish which health services could most usefully be based in Seaton and Axminster hospitals, and this might involve canvassing the views of local residents and a number of people present offered to help with this.

The meeting decided to set up a new Axe Valley Hospitals Campaign to support the development of a health hub around the two hospitals and to oppose any proposals to sell off hospital sites.”

http://www.devonlive.com/news/health/axe-valley-health-hub-plan-699423

“Campaigners put pressure on government to improve ‘dire’ Devon education funding at national lobby”

As yet there appears to be no similar East Devon campaign group and our two MPs simply dole out meaningless platitudes without concrete follow-up action. Swire seems more preoccupied with who to back for next PM (or maybe ex-PM!) in order to regain a foreign office ministerial post while Parish’s preoccupations remain farmers and dualling the A303.

… “Tamsin Higgs, mother-of-three from Braunton, has been leading the parent-led and non-political Fair Funding For All Schools campaign in North Devon since the beginning of this year. For more information you can visit the campaign’s Facebook page here. Tamsin has also set up a campaign group in Torrington who recently met with Torridge MP Geoffrey Cox. …

… Tamsin said she regularly meets with the central school funding campaign group in London who, alongside the National Education Union, planned the national lobby at Westminster against school funding cuts. The group decided to take part in the lobby, which attracted more than 1,000 people, to apply pressure from all constituencies on the central government to increase funding and ensure schools are not losing out. …”

http://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/campaigners-put-pressure-government-improve-700472

Council Finance Officers should ALL be responsible for scrutinising Local Enterprise Partnerships

“Section 151 officers [Responsible Financial Officer of a council, often called a Chief Financial Officer] should be given a beefed up role in ensuring Local Enterprise Partnerships spend public money wisely, according to a government-commissioned review.

The review, by Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) non-executive director Mary Ney, was instigated after MPs raised concerns over transparency and governance.

It found a lack of consistency in how section 151 officers overseeing LEPs are able to influence decisions and provide advice.

The review said that, accordingly, the government, in association with CIPFA (the Chartered Institute for Public Finance and Accountancy), should revise the National Assurance Framework (NAF), which sets out what government expects LEPs to cover in their local assurance frameworks.

Ney said: “The clarification of the role of the section 151 officer could also consider the scope for the LEP chief executive and the section 151 officer to provide a formal joint annual governance statement which is reported to the LEP board.

“It is also recommended that the NAF sets a requirement for the section 151 to provide a report to the Annual Conversation on their work for the LEP and their opinion with a specific requirement to identify any issues of concern on governance and transparency.”

Changes to the framework should cover:

mechanisms the section 151 officer uses to fulfil their role;
requirements in terms of access to decision-making bodies;
ability to provide written and verbal financial advice;
role of their transactional services;
operation of normal checks and balances in approving expenditure;
management of risk of fraud and corruption;
monitoring of programme spend against resources;
treasury management and borrowing;
role of internal audit and external auditors and provision of an audit opinion for the LEP;
visibility of reporting arrangements to both the accountable body and the LEP
production of accounts;
inter-relationship with the LEP’s own accounts, if relevant.
Last year, the National Audit Office identified concerns in governance arrangements for LEPs.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “LEPs’ role has expanded rapidly and significantly but they are not as transparent to the public as we would expect, especially given they are now responsible for significant amounts of taxpayers’ money.

“While the Department has adopted a ‘light touch’ approach to overseeing Growth Deals, it is important that this doesn’t become ‘no touch’.”

A subsequent inquiry by the House of Commons local government select committee concluded that the DCLG, “should enforce the existing standards of transparency, governance and scrutiny before allocating funding. LEPs themselves also need to be more transparent to the public by, for example, publishing financial information”.

Separately, this week’s review found that many LEPs are frustrated by the mismatch between long-term LEP spending programmes and annualised budgets resulting from central government funding arrangements.

Nye’s report said: “This could also impact on good governance if late and speedy decisions are made by LEPs which give insufficient time for all the checks and balances of the normal processes.

“The annual uncertainty of funding also has the consequence of some LEP staff being on fixed-term contracts, which is counter-productive in terms of efficiency and may have unintended impacts on good governance if it leads to insufficient organisation stability and continuity.”

http://www.room151.co.uk/151-news/report-calls-for-bolstered-s151-role-for-leps/

Foreign companies pay no corporation tax on UK commercial property sales

“… According to the British Property Federation there is about £871bn worth of commercial real estate in the UK – 10% of our nation’s net wealth. Not only is this hugely important in its own right, its value impacts on the price of land, and hence of new homes. About 20% of commercial real estate is sold each year – worth an eye-watering £115bn in 2015, according to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

When a seller is a UK individual or company, they are subject to UK corporation tax on their capital gains. Yet where the seller is foreign they are not. Approximately one-third of all UK commercial real estate – including most high value property – is held through offshore companies. Typically these companies are in tax havens, or structured so they pay no tax on the capital gain. Indeed, British taxpayers should be asking tough questions as to why their government turns a blind eye to anyone who holds UK property in offshore companies. …

In 2015 the then chancellor George Osborne made a big deal of taking action against non-doms who avoided paying tax – ending permanent non-dom status and changing the rules on inheritance tax. He also introduced capital gains tax on residential property sales by non-doms – but crucially not commercial properties. This has created the world’s most obvious loophole where overseas individuals and companies can repurpose property as commercial to avoid it. Closing this loophole could be very lucrative – estimates suggest it would raise between £5bn and £8bn per year.

Those worried that this would put Britain itself at a disadvantage against our competitors can be reassured: the United States taxes foreigners making a capital gain on US real estate, as do Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Australia. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development rules explicitly allow nations to tax foreign-owned companies on the sale of their real estate. Yet successive UK governments have quietly let this injustice continue.

Last week I [Stella Creasey, Labour MP] tabled legislation to try to tackle this – but the government didn’t want to know. Treasury minister Mel Stride simply said it would be too “complex” to implement. With such sums at stake, our public services cannot afford for us to leave this in the “complicated” box any longer: the dividends could make a real contribution to our cash-starved schools and hospitals. In addition, it would improve the fairness of our tax system and help take some of the heat out of the UK’s inflamed property market.

We have another opportunity this coming week to finish what Osborne started. Parliament can act by supporting my amendment to the finance bill at its report stage on Tuesday 31 October. With cross-party support already building for it, this Halloween it’s time to give those overseas companies not paying their taxes a real nightmare.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/30/egregious-loophole-property-capital-gains-tax-close-foreign-owners-commercial