Virgin and Stagecoach: more pigs, more snouts, more troughs

“Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin and Sir Brian Souter’s Stagecoach shared a payout of over £52m just months before the companies pulled out of the East Coast line, forcing a £2bn government bail out, it has emerged.

Virgin and Stagecoach received the pay out for the West Coast mainline which runs the route connecting London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, and Glasgow.

Virgin Rail owns 51 per cent of the West Coast mainline, with the remainder held by Stagecoach.

‘No surprise’

Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald said Virgin Rail’s dividend increases came as “no surprise”.

“This is yet more evidence of a failing rail system which is costing taxpayers a fortune, lining the pockets of billionaires and making passengers feel like they’ve been mugged whenever they buy a ticket,” Mr McDonald told the Sunday Times.

“These vast payouts show exactly why we need to bring our railways back into public ownership.”

Virgin-Stagecoach bail out

The figures have come to light just four months after Virgin, run by Richard Branson and Stagecoach, run by Brian Souter, walked away from the East Coast main line franchise in June, three years into an eight-year deal.

The firms had agreed to pay the Government £3.3bn for the right to run the line, with the sum to be paid in instalments up until 2023.

Stagecoach had controlled 90 per cent of the franchise, compared to Virgin’s 10 per cent. Pulling out of the franchise early will allow Stagecoach and Virgin to avoid making Government payments of up to £2bn.

‘Virgin on the ridiculous’

One online critic described the situation as an “absolute laugh”, while another said: “They don’t even pretend not to be screwing over the taxpayers and the commuters anymore.

“Branson and chums make extortionate profits again while delivering nothing to rail users. It’s all Virgin on the ridiculous.”

Virgin Rail insisted its “industry-leading levels of customer satisfaction” warranted the dividends, with a spokeswoman pointing to company “innovations” such as automatic refunds for delays, free films and TV on board trains and mtickets (tickets you can buy and keep on your mobile phone).

“This drove a strong business performance which helped deliver a record payment to taxpayers,” the spokeswoman said.”

https://inews.co.uk/news/richard-branson-52m-virgin-rail-stagecoach-payout/

EDDC’s auditors (Grant Thornton) in the bad news spotlight again

“… In May, Patisserie Valerie said that it had £28.8m in cash reserves, while half-year profits were 14.2% up on the previous year at £11.1m.

On Thursday, the firm announced that its board had found “a material shortfall between the reported financial status and the current financial status of the business”.

Grant Thornton, which has audited the firm’s accounts since 2010, said it would not comment on Mr Johnson’s revelations to the Sunday Times.” …

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45854817

Open spaces: to little and so very, very late

The Mail on Sunday today has launched a petition stop parks being sold off.

If only they had created it BEFORE the massive sell-off, instead of after.

But then Tory donor developers – who bought the parks – wouldn’t have liked it.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6273471/Petition-launched-rescue-open-spaces-sold-cash-strapped-councils.html

Pigs and troughs …. MP outside interests and payments: some snouts much deeper in the trough than others)

They get £75 – £150 for filling out Parliamentary surveys about what they think!!! Each one taking 30-60 minutes!!!

“Posh watches, football tickets and VIP trips – what your MPs get for free
Expensive gifts, football tickets, all-paid trips abroad, second salaries and fat dividends – all the perks and benefits enjoyed by your local MP.

Second jobs, cash for surveys and income from company shares, donors and second homes – these are just some of the ways your local MP makes extra money.

Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall’s political elite – in line with the rest of parliament – routinely lay out in full their financial affairs for all to see to maintain openness and transparency.

Some through their powerful connections, seniority and expertise gain more than others – whether that be a gift from a wealthy client, cash donations from the private sector, wages from another high-flying job or all-paid for trips abroad to promote UK affairs.

Those deep inside the inner Whitehall circle are REALLY pulling in the mega bucks.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson was recently thrown back in the spotlight after it was revealed he’s being paid £22,916.66 a month until July 2019 by the Daily Telegraph – an annual pay packet of £274,999 – to write articles.

Plymouth Live lifts the lid on the latest round of financial declarations, dated October 1, unveiled by Parliament.

Johnny Mercer – Plymouth Moor View [Conservative]

The Tory backbencher declared in parliament’s latest financial log he’s landed a second job earning £85,000 a year – in return for 20 hours work a month.

Ex soldier Johnny has taken up the role of non-executive director for military veterans support company Crucial Academy Ltd.

That’s on top of his paycheck as a member of parliament – £77,379 – taking his total annual earnings to £162,379.

Mr Mercer, who employs his wife Felicity Cornelius-Mercer as his Principal Secretary, has also publicly declared he was paid £300 by the BBC in March this year for a three-hour appearance at the BBC Free Thinking Festival.

He also had accommodation and travel funded by the Bahrain Embassy from April 5 to 9 this year so he could attend the opening of the UK/Bahrain Naval Base, meet with Government Ministers, as well as members of the Federal National Council and senior business figures in order to build on the ‘bilateral relationship’.

Luke Pollard – Plymouth Sutton and Devonport [Labour]

Mr Pollard – elected in the 2017 snap General Election – has declared he owns a house in Plymouth worth more than £100,000.

Gary Streeter – South West Devon [Conservative]

Mr Streeter, who employs his wife Janet Streeter as a part-time Junior Parliamentary Researcher, has made extra cash filling out online Government surveys.

The senior Tory politician also declared a £3,500 watch bought for him as a Christmas present from Plymouth millionaires Michael and Diane Hockin.

Mr Streeter’s cash for surveys

9 October 2017, received £150 for completing July and September 2017 parliamentary panel surveys. Hours: approx. 90 mins (45 mins each).

20 November 2017, received £75 for completing October 2017 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: 45 mins.

5 January 2018, received £100 for completing November 2017 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: approx. 45 mins.

5 February 2018, received £100 for completing January 2018 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: approx. 45 mins.

14 March 2018, received £75 for completing February 2018 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: approx. 45 mins.

19 April 2018, received £75 for completing March 2018 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: approx. 45 mins.

25 May 2018, received £75 for completing April 2018 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: approx. 45 mins.

29 June 2018, received £75 for completing May 2018 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: approx. 45 mins.

13 August 2018, received £75 for completing June 2018 parliamentary panel survey. Hours: approx. 45 mins.

Sarah Wollaston – Totnes [Conservative]

Ms Wollaston, Tory chair of the Liaison Committee and the Health Select Committee in the House of Commons, had no financial declarations to declare.

Anne Marie Morris – Newton Abbot – [Conservative]

The former lawyer owns two flats in London and a house in Surrey which generate income.

The Tory MP has a non-paid for position for marketing consultancy firm Manteion Ltd.

She is also a ‘non-practising’ member of the Law Society of England and Wales, the Chartered Institute of Marketing and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council.

Ms Marie Morris is also an unpaid director of the Small Business Bureau.

From March 2017, she became a non-paid director of the Genesis Initiative; a body that seeks to represent small business interests of European businesses.

Ben Bradshaw – Exeter [Labour] note: it does not say here that Mr Bradshaw donates all recent MP pay rises to charity

The Labour MP has made extra cash each month filling out ‘opinion’ surveys.

Mr Bradshaw is also a member of the Humboldt Advisory Board, at Humboldt University, in Berlin.

He wrote in his financial declaration: “Where possible, I attend annual Advisory Board meetings in Berlin, the costs of which are met by the university.”

Mr Bradshaw’s cash for surveys

Payment from ComRes, Coveham House, Downside Bridge Road, Cobham KT11 3EP, for opinion surveys:

12 June 2017, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

22 August 2017, payment of £50. Hours: 30 mins.

22 September 2017, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

29 September 2017, payment of £150. Hours: 1 hr.

17 November 2017, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

14 March 2018, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins

16 April 2018, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

22 May 2018, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

25 June 2018, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

23 July 2018, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

27 August 2018, payment of £75. Hours: 30 mins.

13 September 2018, payment of £100. Hours: 30 mins.

Geoffrey Cox QC – Torridge and West Devon

Geoffrey Cox has been MP for Torridge and West Devon since 2005 and is said to be the highest earning MP in the House of Commons, thanks to his other role as a barrister.

Mr Cox has declared hundreds of thousands of pounds in fees paid to him by solicitor firms in return for hundreds of hours worth of work over the last year.

He owns a cottage and farmland in West Devon and owns shares in an international law firm and a property company.

Geoffrey Cox’s vast legal fees

Payments from Messrs. Janes, solicitors. Address: 17 Waterloo Place, London SW17 4AR: 8 December 2017, received £24,750 for legal services provided between 1 September 2016 and 1 October 2017. Hours: 40 hrs approx.

31 December 2017, received £3,000 for legal services provided between 4 and 7 November 2017. Hours: 5 hrs approx.

31 January 2018, received £5,000 for legal services provided between 1 December 2017 and 31 January 2018. Hours: 8 hrs approx.

16 May 2018, received £4,500 plus VAT for legal services provided between 1 September 2017 and 31 May 2018. Hours: 9 hrs approx.

13 June 2018, received £5,750 plus VAT for legal services provided between 14 March and 22 May 2018. Hours: 10 hrs approx.

Payments from Messrs. Travers, Thorp, Alberga, Attorneys. Address: Harbour Place, 2nd Floor, PO Box 472, 103 South Church Street, Grand Cayman KY1 1106: 5 February 2018, received £40,000 for legal services provided between 1 September 2017 and 18 February 2018. Hours: 60 hrs approx.

Payments from Bachubhai Munim & Co Advocates & Solicitors, 312, Tulsiani Chambers, Nariman Point, Mumbai 400 021: 27 November 2017, received £85,387.50 for legal services provided between 14 February 2017 and 12 November 2017. Hours: 170 hrs approx.

31 July 2018, received £12,500 (no VAT) for work undertaken between 1 November 2017 and 30 June 2018. Hours: 25 hrs.

15 November 2017, received £3,333.33 from Registrar of Criminal Appeals, Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL, for legal services provided between 1 January 2016 and 15 December 2016. Hours: 10 hrs approx.

Payments from Oracle Solicitors, 182-184 Edgware Road, London W2 2DS: 15 December 2017, received £119,733.33 for legal services provided between 1 July 2016 and 30 November 2017. Hours: 350 hrs approx.

15 May 2018, received £119,733.33 for legal services provided between 1 May 2016 and 30 April 2018 and continuing. Hours: 300 hrs approx.

31 August 2018, received £88,602.67 plus VAT for legal services provided between 1 March and 9 July 2018. Hours: 300 hrs.

Payments from LK Baltica Solicitors, 4th Floor, Kings Buildings, 16 Smith Square, London SW1P 3HQ: 14 March 2018, received £2,500 for legal services provided between 1 and 31 March 2018. Hours: 5 hrs approx.

13 April 2018, received £3,000 for legal services provided between 1 March and 30 April 2018. Hours: 5 hrs approx.

15 May 2018, received £6,737.50 for legal services provided between 1 February and 30 April 2018. Hours: 10 hrs approx.

16 July 2018, received £2,475 plus VAT for work undertaken between 1 April and 30 June 2018. Hours: 5 hrs.

Payments from Messrs Rainer Hughes, Oak House, 46 Crossway, Shenfield, CM15 8QY: 16 July 2018, received £1,000 plus VAT for work undertaken between 21 September and 12 December 2011. Hours: 2 hrs.

Mel Stride – Central Devon

Tory Paymaster General Mel Stride holds a stake of more than 15 per cent in Venture Marketing Group Ltd – described by parliamentary files as a ‘publisher, organiser of exhibitions and conferences.’

Peter Heaton-Jones – North Devon [Conservative]

Tory Mr Heaton-Jones’ only declaration is that he owns a house in Wiltshire worth more than £100,000.

Sir Hugo Swire – East Devon [Conservative]

Sir Hugo has had several ministerial roles, most recently as Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Since 2016, the senior politician has earned thousands every month in prominent positions outside Parliament and holds shares yielding tens of thousands of pounds in a honey firm.

He employs his wife Alexandra (Sasha) Swire, as Senior Researcher/Parliamentary Assistant.

Sir Hugo’s outside appointments and earnings – in his own words

From 9 November 2016 until 1 June 2018, Adviser to KIS France, a manufacturer of photo booths and mini labs. Address: 7 Rue Jean Pierre Timbaud, 38130 Echirolles, France. I was paid £3,000 every month for this role.

Hours: 8 hrs per month. I consulted ACoBA about this appointment.

From 15 November 2016, Deputy Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council. Address: Marlborough House, Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5HX. From 1 April 2018 I expect to be paid £2,083 every month until further notice. Hours: 10 hrs per month. I consulted ACoBA about this appointment.

16 November 2017, received £25,000 for acting as adviser to Apiro Real Estate Fund 1 Limited Partnership, 1 Connaught House, Mount Row, London SW1K 3RA. Hours: 10 hrs. I consulted ACoBA about this appointment.

From 18 June 2017 until 4 June 2018, non-executive director of ATG Airports, Newton Road, Lowton St Mary’s, Warrington WA3 2AP. From 5 February 2018, I was paid £2,500 every month for this role. Hours: approx. 4.5 hrs per month. Any additional payments are listed below. I consulted ACoBA about this appointment.

24 November 2017, received £10,086.72. Hours: 15 hrs.

From 19 March 2018 until further notice, Non-Executive Chairman of the British Honey Company, Unit 3 Vista Place, Coy Pond Business Park, Ingworth Road, Poole, Dorset, BH12 1JY. I will receive shares with a value of £50,000, in lieu of two years’ payment. Hours: expected to be about 5 hrs a month. I consulted ACoBA about this appointment.

Neil Parish – Tiverton and Honiton [Conservative]

Mr Parish declared he’d had all his expenses covered by the Conservative Friends of Israel to go on a ‘fact finding political delegation’ to Israel from April 8 to April 13 this year.

He wrote: “Estimate of the probable value (or amount of any donation): (1) Air travel, accommodation and hospitality for myself with a value of £2,500, plus airport transfer and hospitality for my spouse with a value of £600, total £3,100 (2) For my spouse and myself, bus travel and airport VIP service with a total value of £1,300.”

Mr Parish owns a family farm in Somerset and employs his wife Susan Parish, as Junior Secretary.

Sheryll Murray – South East Cornwall [Conservative]

Mrs Murray revealed she’d secured a Tory party donation from Looe Conservative Ladies Luncheon Club amounting to £2,776.91 in 2017.

Torpoint and District Unionist Club also pledged £3,000 that year.

Mrs Murray also declared she went on an all-paid expenses trip to Armenia from 21 September to 24 September last year to attend a ‘Progressivism and Conservatism conference’.

“Airfare and accommodation for me and member of staff with a value of £2,800,” she wrote.

All costs were covered by the Prosperous Armenia Party.

Scott Mann – North Cornwall [Conservative]

Scott Mann attended the Progressivism and Conservatism conference in Armenia in September last year, expenses to the tune of £2,800 covered by Prosperous Armenia Party.

George Eustice – Camborne and Redruth [Conservative]

Mr Eustice declared that he owns a one-bed flat in London.

Sarah Newton – Truro & Falmouth [Conservative]

Sarah Newton had no financial affairs to declare.

Steve Double – St Austell and Newquay [Conservative]

In January, Winchester-based tyre firm Micheldever Tyre Service gave Mr Double two tickets to a football match and threw in hospitality and hotel accommodation in a package worth £600.

The MP is also getting paid £18,990 to act as a policy advisor for Good Faith Partnership LLP in a nine-month contract finishing in December this year.

He also joined Tories on a ‘fact-finding political delegation’ to Israel in April this year – with all his expenses being covered by Conservative Friends of Israel and Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr Double’s affairs – in his words

Land and property portfolio: (i) value over £100,000 and/or (ii) giving rental income of over £10,000 a year

From 10 May 2018, a flat in St Austell, co-owned with my wife and inhabited by a family member

Shareholdings: over 15% of issued share capital

Bay Direct Media; a direct marketing company

Bay Mailing Services Ltd; a mailing house

Phoenix Corporate Gifts Ltd; a company selling branded merchandise

Family members employed and paid from parliamentary expenses

I employ my wife, Anne Double, as Principal Secretary.

Derek Thomas – St Ives [Conservative]

In 2017, the ex-property developer secured a £3,000 Tory party donation from Tresco island owner Robert Dorrien Smith.

Mr Thomas also secured £16,221 in sponsorship from Aventis Pharma Ltd for healthcare consultancy firm Incisive Health, to drive forward its Diabetes Think Tank initiative.

Since October last year, the MP has also jointly owned land, a house and a shop in West Cornwall with his wife.

Mr Thomas declared that since December 2015, he holds an interest ‘below registrable value’ in Mustard Seed Property Ltd, a community benefit society which provides housing in Cornwall for vulnerable people.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/mps-plymouth-salaries-benefits-parliament-2092453