£2 million unspent on broadband cannot be reallocated

“Councillors in Devon have been told that they cannot use £2m of unspent funds from a major broadband project.

External funding has been used to finish the first phase of the Connecting Devon and Somerset scheme, the largest government-funded superfast broadband programme in the UK.

However, councillors who wanted to use the extra £2m to accelerate the project have been told that it is not within the county council’s power to reallocate funds.

“Councillor Stuart Barker, Devon County Council cabinet member for economy and skills, said: “The money isn’t for us to redistribute.

“We are not the accountable authority or the contract holder, so it is not for us to redistribute that money.”

The first phase of the Connecting Devon and Somerset project has been used to install superfast broadband in homes on Exmoor and Dartmoor with other difficult areas due to be completed by next year.


“Scrap ‘highly regressive’ council tax, says thinktank”

“Council tax is an outdated and regressive levy on households that should be scrapped in favour of a progressive levy on property, according to a report by the Resolution Foundation.

The thinktank said council tax had become almost flat-rated in some areas to leave it resembling the much maligned poll tax of the early 1990s.

Someone living in a property worth £100,000 pays around five times as much council tax relative to property value as someone living in a property worth £1m. This is exactly the kind of result that opponents of the poll tax wanted to avoid and in stark contrast to income tax, which increases with incomes in a progressive way so higher earners pay a higher average tax rate,” she said.

There are eight council tax bands that determine annual charges. All the bands are based on 1991 property prices following the failure of successive governments to sanction revaluations.

The highest band (H) is for homes valued at £320,000 and above, despite the average London houseprice now being more than £480,000. Purbeck district council in Dorset will charge band H homes £3,747 from April while Wandsworth council in London, which hosts some of the most valuable homes in the UK, will charge £1,433.

The foundation said ministers should consider replicating the 2017 reforms implemented in Scotland across England and Wales, which involved increasing council tax rates in the top four bands and generated a little over £1bn.

An alternative reform would be a “mansion tax” surcharge of 1% on the value of properties worth more than £2m and 2% on the value of properties above £3m, which would also generate just over £1bn.

A broader overhaul could involve a switch to a 0.5% charge on all properties that would result in a £100,000 home in Newcastle being charged £500 a year and a similar sized £1m home in London charged £5,000 – a £3,000 increase on current charges. …”


“Thousands of miles of UK roads in poor condition”

“Some 10% of the road network maintained by local authorities in Great Britain is in poor condition, or has been flagged for further inspection.
About 37,000 kilometres (22,990 miles) across England, Wales and Scotland fell below top standard in surveys carried out on behalf of the Department for Transport.

The RAC said the road network had suffered from years of underinvestment
The government said it was investing £6bn in improving local roads.
The analysis by the BBC shared data unit comes as a separate investigation by the Asphalt Industry Alliance found more than 39,300 kilometres (24,400 miles) of road had been identified as needing essential maintenance in the next year.

Simon Williams, a spokesman for the RAC, said: “Before the cold snap the condition of many local roads was on a knife edge with many councils struggling to fix our roads properly.

“But now, as a result of the ‘Beast from the East’ some local roads will have deteriorated even further, possibly to the point that they represent a serious risk to the safety of users.” …


Taylor Wimpey bonus “slashed” from £1.08 million to £827,757 after leasehold scandal

“Housebuilder Taylor Wimpey has slashed 23pc from its directors’ bonuses in response to the scandal over punitive leasehold terms.

The company’s annual report shows that chief executive Pete Redfern received £827,757 through Taylor Wimpey’s executive incentive scheme (EIS), rather than almost £1.08m as originally planned.

Ryan Mangold, finance director, and James Jordan, legal director and company secretary, also received a 23pc cut in their bonuses for 2017.

Taylor Wimpey has come under fire for selling homes with leasehold terms which mean the ground rent payable by the homeowners doubles every 10 years. In some cases, this has made the houses unsellable.

The homebuilder said the scaling back of bonuses was a “meaningful and proportionate approach to take”, even though the leasehold issue had not directly inflated the bonuses last year.

Meanwhile, housebuilder Persimmon has confirmed that chief executive Jeff Fairburn will receive a total pay packet of £47m this year thanks to a generous long term incentive plan agreed in 2012 which came to maturity last year. His total bonus award was due to be around £100m over two years, although it was later reduced to £75m.

Mr Fairburn has said he will give some of the money to charity.”


How can you be trusted with the economy if you can’t get your election expenses right!

“Details of enforcement action relating to political parties

The Conservative Party, Green Party and the Labour Party are under investigation for submitting spending returns that were missing invoices and for submitting potentially inaccurate statements of payments made.

The Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats are under investigation for making multiple payments to suppliers where either the claim for payment was received past the 30 day deadline or it was paid after the 60 day deadline following the election. These deadlines are specified in law.

The Women’s Equality Party is under investigation for submitting a spending return that was inconsistent with its donation reports covering the same period.

Details of enforcement action relating to non-party campaigners:

Best for Britain is under investigation for submitting a spending return that was missing invoices. The campaigner is also under investigation for not returning a £25,000 donation from an impermissible donor within 30 days as required by PPERA.

The National Union for Teachers is under investigation for submitting a spending return that was missing an invoice.”



With Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) becoming the first local authority to see its finances effectively collapse, former council leader Heather Smith told the BBC:

“We have been warning government from about 2013-14 that, with our financial position, we couldn’t cope with the levels of cuts we were facing.”

But this isn’t merely a Conservative-run county council … every single MP in the East Midlands county just happens to be a Tory.

Unsurprisingly, all seven of them have been doing their utmost to distance themselves from the fiasco – releasing joint statements saying the government should take over NCC finances and later that the council should be abolished.

So it would be pretty embarrassing if it turned out that these MPs had – in fact – repeatedly trumpeted their support for the austerity policies that gave rise to this situation.

Errrr … here’s a taster.

Wellingborough MP Peter Bone in the Commons last February:

“Does the Secretary of State agree that our long-term economic plan has worked and that the Opposition Members who opposed it should now be contrite?”

Kettering’s Philip Hollobone to Andrew Lansley:

“will he arrange a full day’s debate … on Britain’s long-term economic plan, so that Members from across the House can describe how their constituencies are benefiting from Britain’s strengthening economic recovery?”

Corby MP Tom Pursglove said of a Northamptonshire retail development:

“This is local evidence that the Prime Minister’s Long Term Economic Plan is working.”

Chris Heaton-Harris, Daventry, reckons:

“This Budget is part of our long-term economic plan to give economic security to the families of Britain. The single biggest risk would be to abandon the plan and listen to Labour’s calls to borrow more, spend more and put up taxes.”

Michael Ellis, Northampton North, told PMQs:

“It is thanks to our long-term economic plan that £200 million has been allocated to fighting potholes, including £3.3 million for Northamptonshire”
And as economic secretary to the treasury under Cameron, South Northamptonshire MP Andrea Leadsom has her hands dipped dipped directly in austerity blood.

Soon-to-be-redundant council staff may take more convincing on this ‘long-term economic plan’ thing.