Another developer scandal – with George Osborne needing to explain himself

“More than a dozen property schemes in the north of England that were promoted to investors in Asia – in one case by former chancellor George Osborne – have either stalled indefinitely or collapsed outright, a Guardian Cities investigation has found.

Hundreds of investors claim to have lost money to an increasingly popular property model known as “buyer-funded development”. In these schemes, rather than go to banks, developers finance projects using multiple small investors’ deposits – which can be up to 80% of the value of the unit.

But, according to some investors, money has been taken without the units being delivered. Some describe losing their life savings and say they have approached police for help recovering their funds.

Others say they believed the developments were somehow state-guaranteed because they were promoted as investment opportunities by officials from local or national government.

The development was one of several projects in the north of England promoted to overseas investors by Osborne during a 2015 “trade mission” to China. Osborne told the Liverpool Echo that he was working as a “tag team” with the city’s mayor, Joe Anderson, to persuade individuals to invest in the scheme.

However, the development has since been mired in problems, with little sign of progress at the construction site. Amid increasingly serious complaints by investors and several missed deadlines, Liverpool city council commenced legal action against the developer last year and said it had referred the scheme to the National Crime Agency.

Last July North Point Global announced it would seek to offload all of its property developments because its brand was “tainted and damaged beyond salvage” as a result of criticism by the council and reporting by the Liverpool Echo, which has covered its developments extensively. …”

[The article continues with many other examples of promised deals gone bad]

“Litvinenko widow warns Tories over Russian donations”

Why should ANY UK Party be allowed to take donations from non-UK companies or nationals?

The Conservative Party has also blocked us knowing who funded the DUP anti-Brexit campaign that paid hundreds of thousands of pounds for anti-Brexit newspapers not available in Ireland.

“The Conservative party is facing pressure to return Russian donations after the attempted murder of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal on British soil.

Marina Litvinenko, the widow of another former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, whose murder is believed to have been carried out under the direction of Russia’s FSB spy agency, said the Tories risked tainting their reputation if they held on to the cash.

“You need to be very accurate where this money came from before you accept this money,” she told Sky News. “If you identify it’s dirty money [you’re] just not allowed to accept it because I think reputation is very important. [The] reputation of the Conservative party in the UK and all around the world needs to be clear.”

The Sunday Times reported that Russian oligarchs and their associates had registered donations of £826,100 to the Tories since Theresa May entered No 10.

A spokesman said: “All donations to the Conservative party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them and comply fully with the law.”

Litvinenko accused May of failing to act to prevent a reoccurrence of the type of attack to which her husband fell victim. …”

Vile? Moi? Never!

Hugo Swire has called this blog “vile”. He’s entitled to his opinion (as is Owl).

However, the blog does have the odd rule (though very few, and very odd) and one is that it reserves the right to edit the many variations on Mr Swire’s name from its commentators – some of which are a rather clever but demeaning play on words.

He will always be the polite “Hugo Swire” to this blog – though NEVER the fawning “Sir Hugo Swire” for a knighthood handed down by his pal Dave just before he (said Dave)jumped off the Tory luxury cruise ship and landed on a bed of goose down feathers sprinkled with unicorn dust.

Privatisation: consultants hire more consultants to bail them out (maybe)

(The final paragraph gives some perspective to the Capita boss’s upbeat message!)

The embattled outsourcing giant Capita is plotting a £700m fire sale of assets alongside a heavily discounted rights issue intended to raise a similar sum.

The new chief executive of the former FTSE 100 favourite is understood to be working on a more aggressive than expected review that could lead to the sale of six or seven businesses.

Jonathan Lewis, who overhauled the oil services company Amec Foster Wheeler, admitted in January that Capita needed a rescue cash call.

Delivering a profit warning that almost halved the market value to £1.1bn, Lewis said Capita had underinvested and relied on acquisitions to fuel growth.

The company has contracts ranging from army recruitment to customer services for Tesco Mobile [and BIG contracts with local authorities such as Barnet where they run just about everything]. It is wrestling with a debt pile that totalled £1.2bn at the end of last year and a reported £381m pension deficit.

Capita has hired the consultancy McKinsey & Co to work on its strategy and Bain & Co to help scythe through costs.

Lewis said in January that two businesses would be sold — Constructionline and ParkingEye — as part of non-core disposals. It is understood Capita has now identified six or seven businesses, worth up to £700m, that could be sold in stages. With the rights issue, this would allow Capita to raise up to £1.4bn of fresh capital. The company has had more than 120 approaches from potential bidders interested in its offshoots.

Capita has delayed publishing its 2017 results until it finalises the rights issue, which could be launched within weeks. Lewis is expected to reveal a cost-cutting plan that will strip hundreds of millions of pounds from its overheads.

The turnaround drive comes amid a toxic climate for outsourcing companies, illustrated by the collapse of Carillion in January.

Interserve is trying to refinance its £513m debt. The share price leapt last week on hopes that a deal with lenders may be agreed within days.

Lewis has insisted Capita is not in the same position as Carillion, pointing out it has £1bn of cash and bank facilities. Its shares closed last week at 168p. A year ago they were trading at 518.6p.

● Advisers to Carillion were handed £6.4m just before its collapse. Law firms including Clifford Chance and Slaughter and May and the investment bank Lazard were among the firms that were paid fees on January 12, an inquiry by MPs has found. Carillion went into liquidation 72 hours later.”

Source: Sunday Times (pay wall)

DCC Councillor Martin Shaw (East Devon Alliance) updates on NHS changes

This is a long article but if you want to know where we are with NHS changes in Devon this gives you all the information.

Our pressure has led to Devon NHS joining a national retreat from privatising Accountable Care Organisations. However the Devon Integrated Care System will still cap care, with weak democratic control – we need time to rethink

We must thank ALL our Independent Councillors – particularly DCC Independent Councillor Claire Wright, DCC Councillor Martin Shaw (East Devon Alliance) and EDDC Councillor Cathy Gardner (East Devon Alliance) for the tremendous work they have done (and continue to do) in the face of the intransigence (and frankly, unintelligence) of sheep-like Tory councillors.

At EDDC Tory Councillors told their Leader to back retaining community hospitals, so he went to DCC and voted to close them (receiving no censure for this when Independents called for a vote of no confidence).

At the DCC, Health and Social Care Scrutiny Committee Tory members were 10-line whipped by its Chair Sarah Randall-Johnson to refuse a debate on important changes and to vote for accelerated privatisation with no checks or balances.

At DCC full council – well Tory back-benchers might just as well send in one councillor to vote since they all seem to be programmed by the same robotics company!