“Chancellor Philip Hammond faces backbench rebellion over £6billion tax loophole for foreign ‘non-dom’ property owners”

“Philip Hammond is facing a backbench rebellion over a £6billion tax loophole for foreign non-dom property owners.

They must pay tax on residential property sales but the government is not including profits made on commercial buildings.

It means that foreign owners can declare their flats and houses in Britain are for commercial use before they sell them- meaning they don’t have to pay a levy, reports The Sun.

The omission has created a loophole worth approximately £6billion that is set to spark a Commons showdown, according to campaigners.

Mr Hammond is now facing a rebellion from a cross-party coalition of Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and SNP MPs when the Finance Bill is put to a vote on Tuesday.

Labour MP Stella Creasy said: ‘Why should British businesses have to pay this tax but foreign ones get away with it? …”


Is a new, powerful supra-regional authority being created without public consultation?

Owl says: yes!

On 1 January 2018, a new “Joint Committee” will come into being.

It is charged with delivery of a “productivity strategy” for the whole Devon and Somerset area.

For its (sinister?) aims and objectives, see section 1.3 here:

Click to access 011117bpcabinethotsw%20jcarrangementsappendixc.pdf

Truly, we live in disturbing times as NONE of this has had ANY public consultation, yet, at EDDC, it will be decided on the nod at its Cabinet meeting on 1 November 2017:

Click to access 011117combinedcabinetagenda.pdf

Some really worrying points:

In Section 2.2 it says that the joint committee can at any time extend its powers as it sees fit.

Section 9.2 says a simple majority of votes will decide actions [the membership will be overwhelmingly Tory]

Section 12.0 Chief Executives and Monitoring Officers will be able to add items to the agenda.


The new “joint authority” authority consists of:


Dartmoor National Park Authority
Devon County Council
East Devon District Council
Exeter City Council
Exmoor National Park Authority
Mendip District Council
Mid Devon District Council
North Devon Council
Plymouth City Council
Sedgemoor District Council
Somerset County Council
South Hams District Council
South Somerset Council
Torbay Council
Taunton Deane Borough Council
Teignbridge District Council
Torridge District Council
West Devon Borough Council
West Somerset Council


Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership
NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group
NHS South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group
NHS Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group


Update on Winslade Park (Clyst St Mary) planning application


“I have been advised that the planning application for Winslade Park, Clyst St Mary has been removed from the agenda for 31st October. This request was made by the owners of the site to East Devon District Council and came about as a result of the concerns made by the residents of Clyst St Mary.

At this stage, we don’t yet know if or when the application will go back on the agenda.

The Save Clyst St Mary group remains committed to ensuring East Devon District Council and the Applicant reach the right decision for our village with regard to this application. Any proposal should be both safe and sustainable.

On a different note, the planning application for Enfield Farm is still on the agenda and should be heard by the Devolopment Management Committee in the afternoon of 31st October. We have two residents speaking for us on Tuesday; should you wish to support them please feel free to do so.

On behalf of the SCSM team, please can I thank you all for your ongoing support over these past three years.”

“PFI: five firms avoid tax despite £2bn profits, BBC learns”

“Five offshore PFI companies paid little or no corporation tax during a five-year period despite making profits of nearly £2bn, the BBC has learned.
The five companies specialised in lending money through Private Finance Initiatives (PFI).

They own hundreds of public assets including schools, hospitals and even police stations.

The BBC has also learned that a small number of big offshore companies are currently on a buying spree.

They are buying up a number of the UK’s public buildings.

Research carried out by the think tank that investigates PFI deals, the European Services Strategy Unit, reveals the extent of the buy-up in Britain.

Nine off-shore infrastructure funds own between 50% and 100% of the equity in 335 PFI/Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects. This amounts to 45% of all 735 current projects

12 offshore companies have bought equity in 74% of the 735 current projects
Education and health projects, including schools and hospitals, account for two-thirds of the purchases by offshore companies…

… Dexter Whitfield heads the European Services Strategy Unit which carried out the PFI research for public bodies and other organisations.

He said offshore companies were making huge profits from buying public assets, with annual average returns on their PFI investments as high as 28%.
But Mr Whitfield said the companies paid little or no UK corporation tax despite making huge profits.

He said: “PFI is essentially a private sector profit machine. If the government adopted a strategy of building the public infrastructure directly through public investment and operating it through their in-house services this whole edifice would not exist.

“All these transactions are a product of the fact that there is so much money to be made in PFI.”

Mr Whitfield said five offshore PFI funds made profits of £1.83bn over the five-year period ending in April 2015, but paid little or no corporation tax.

However, this was disputed by one offshore PFI giant, HICL Infrastructure Ltd, based in Guernsey.

It said Mr Whitfield’s research took no account of the fact that tax was paid both by the company’s subsidiaries and by shareholders on their dividends.

A spokesman said: “At the project level, HICL invests in a number of companies, which are incorporated in the UK and accordingly taxed by HMRC….”


Another council refers its hospital closure to Secretary of State

“The future of the inpatient ward at Rothbury Community Hospital is going to the top, after councillors voted to refer the matter to the Health Secretary.

After the joint executive board of the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) last month voted unanimously in favour of permanently closing the inpatient ward and shaping the existing services around a Health and Wellbeing Centre at the hospital, the proposed closure of the 12 beds was discussed by Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing overview and scrutiny committee this morning.

And now that closure is on hold and the final decision rests with the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. The aim of today’s meeting was to decide if the consultation with the committee had been adequate; if the committee felt the proposal would not be in the best interests of the health service in Northumberland; and therefore it it had sufficient evidence of these concerns to make a referral to the Secretary of State for Health. And as part of her statement to members, Katie Scott, from the Save Rothbury Community Hospital campaign group, reflected on this first issue.

“Surely at all stages the scrutiny committee should have been consulted? It seems to us that you have been ignored,” she said. “I believe today is the first opportunity in over 14 months for the committee to fully examine the proposal to take away our beds.”

She also questioned the reasons put forward by the CCG for the proposed closure – the alleged savings, bed underuse and the drive to treat people in their own homes – claiming all are flawed, as well as saying the consultation has been ‘defective’.

However, Stephen Young, Northumberland CCG’s strategic head of corporate affairs, outlined the lengthy process of consultation, including with the committee, and explained that it was made clear to councillors that there was no local support for the proposed closure. He added: “We believe there’s alternative, suitable provision in the area.” His colleague, Dr Alistair Blair, the clinical chairman, set out the clinical reasons behind the proposed closure, which included the fall in bed occupancy and the wider national context around more care being provided at home and why this was beneficial.

He added that they had been monitoring the impact on healthcare services elsewhere in Northumberland for 12 months while the ward has been shut and there have been no adverse consequences. “We understand that this does not have local support but we have to look at the evidence base,” Dr Blair said. “We hope the Health and Wellbeing Centre will benefit more local people.”

One local who benefitted from the ward prior to its closure was Coun Steven Bridgett’s grandmother – the care she received at the hospital prior to her death in 2012 was the focus of an emotional address by the local ward member: “Gran was so well looked after and cared for that you would forget that she was 91 and had most of her body failing her.”

It was his statement which probably resonated most with the Rothbury residents who had filled the council chamber at County Hall in Morpeth. “We are no more than numbers on paper to the CCG,” he said. Turning their attention to the three questions mentioned above, a majority of the committee members considered that the consultation with the committee had not been adequate as the preferred option for consultation, ie, the closure of the ward and the creation of a Health and Wellbeing Centre, was decided and the consultation started before being brought to the scrutiny committee, albeit the CCG brought the matter to the first available meeting once that decision was taken.

A majority of the councillors also felt that whether the proposal was in the best interests of the health service in Northumberland could not be fully assessed as it had not been made clear exactly what the Health and Wellbeing Centre will be and there were also questions over the robustness of the data in relation to future-proofing and knock-on impacts in the rest of the county.

Therefore, following around half-an-hour spent thrashing out their reasons amid advice from the council’s senior legal officer, members voted to refer the matter to the Secretary of State. In each case, members voted by five votes to two with one abstention.”


Referrals by councils to Secretary of State increase – but not in Devon where local Tories said it wasn’t worth doing

“2017 is shaping up to be a bumper year for NHS service change proposals in England being referred to the Secretary of State for Health by local politicians. And that means a bumper year for initial assessments by IRP, the independent body that advises the Secretary of State. [This is what would have happened – mandatory independent scrutiny – if the DCC adult care scrutiny committee had not had a block Tory vote to refuse it – spurred on by Diviani ignoring the wishes of his own council and some very dubious chairing by Sarah Randall-Johnson. What were DCC Tories afraid of, Owl wonders?

We saw just two initial assessment letters in 2016. The assessment letter IRP published on 18 October responding to concerns raised by Thurrock Council about the location for a specialist scanner, is the fifth IRP has published this year and we’re waiting for more to progress through the system.

Local councillors are uniquely placed to understand public sensitivities around changes to local health services, so it’s no surprise that NHS legislation gives them a crucial role in overseeing health service change programmes. The role is important and the legislation sets out responsibilities for NHS and council leaders to make sure the process is effective.

The IRP’s assessment of the Thurrock referral is a timely reminder of the requirement for councils to formally join together to scrutinise proposals that affect more than one local authority area. In this case it seems Thurrock councillors declined to take part in a joint scrutiny committee and instead dealt with the matter on its own. The process is there for good reason and not following it risks weakening whatever good case a council has for making the referral.

The regulations allow councils to come together to form joint scrutiny committees whenever they see fit. The same regulations require councils to form a joint committee when “a relevant NHS body or health service provider consults more than one local authority’s health scrutiny function about substantial reconfiguration proposals”. The rules mean where a section 30 ‘mandatory joint health scrutiny committee’ is in place, only the mandatory committee is allowed to respond to the consultation; exercise the power to require information about the proposals to be provided to it; and require people from the relevant body to appear before it to answer questions relevant to the proposals.

The power to make referrals to the Secretary of State for Health is different. Councils can choose to delegate that to a mandatory joint scrutiny committee, or retain it. So the rules would have allowed Thurrock to participate in the mandatory committee and still consider the matter of referral alone. Would it have strengthened their case to have done that? It’s hard to envisage that following the required process would have weakened it.”


BT rural broadband deal under threat

”A proposed £600m deal between the Government and BT’s network subsidiary Openreach to deliver superfast broadband to 1.4 million rural homes faces legal hurdles.

It is understood that legal advisers have raised concerns that a voluntary offer from Openreach could be challenged in the courts as unfair state support.

Talks between officials and the company are ongoing in the hope of finding a solution, but sources said discussions towards a voluntary investment by Openreach were proving “very challenging”. In some areas the upgrade would come on top of £1.2bn in subsidies that funded upgrades for easier-to-reach rural homes.

The Government has the option of imposing new regulations that would force Openreach to upgrade rural broadband lines when requested, but both sides would prefer a deal that they say would deliver quicker results. Ministers are keen for the final 5pc of homes that cannot receive a 10 megabits per second connection to be upgraded by 2022 at the latest.

New regulation would be welcomed by BT’s rivals, however, who fear that Openreach would be able to dictate the technological and financial terms of a negotiated deal. …”