Swire’s business partner hits the national headlines in the USA

This is a LONG article about how Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska is doing all he can to escape sanctions in the USA.

It notes that he is being assisted with this by Lord Barker of Battle “a former protegé of David Cameron” (an energy minister in the Cameron government) who is attempting to persuade the US that Deripaska is giving up control of a company (EN+) that he has run for many years. Barker is chairman of that company. People are not convinced. The article details how Deripaska has wooed many politicians and bankers all over the world. EN+ even hired a well-connected London public relations company, run by Roland Rudd, whose sister, Amber Rudd, was Britain’s home secretary at the time.

Why does this matter to East Devon Watch? Because Lord Barker and Hugo Swire are 50/50 partners in a company called Eaglesham Investments (not yet trading) which was set up to focus on “renewable energy projects” though elsewhere it says it is for “emerging markets”. (Registered 22 May 2018). Swire registered this interest in December 2017 after East Devon Watch drew attention to it in Lord Barker’s register of interests in May 2017.


The article says of Lord Barker:

“Unlike Mr. Deripaska, Lord Barker had a largely spotless reputation. His only minor brushes with scandal came in 2006, when he left his wife to live with a male interior decorator, and in 2012, while serving as energy minister, when he made the tabloids for using a microwave at Parliament to warm a cushion for his pet dachshund, Otto.

Lord Barker’s appointment, the company declared, was proof of its “commitment to the best standard of corporate governance.” His allies say his efforts since then have been focused on what is best for the company — its employees and all of its shareholders — rather than on Mr. Deripaska’s personal benefit.

Others saw Lord Barker’s appointment as chairman of EN+ as proof of a phenomenon known as “Lords on Boards,” a long line of eminent Britons willing to lend their names and connections to Russia’s scandal-singed elite.

Before entering politics in the early 2000s, Lord Barker had worked in Moscow as the head of investor relations for Sibneft, a Russian oil company connected to two Russian oligarchs, Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich, a onetime business partner of Mr. Deripaska’s. Lord Barker’s job was to convince often skeptical investors and financial journalists that Sibneft had shaken off its shady past in rigged privatization deals and broken with the habits of its oligarch founders.

Now, Lord Barker assumed the chairmanship of EN+ and the London listing was a success. Mr. Deripaska, with his family, took around $1.5 billion from the stock sale and was able to repay VTB. …

The prospect that it would soon become illegal under United States law to do business with the world’s biggest aluminum producer outside of China made it dangerous to sign long-term contracts with any entity connected to Mr. Deripaska. Manufacturers feared grave disruptions in their supplies.

Hanging on as chairman of the board, however, was Lord Barker. Rather than being a figurehead chairman, he was suddenly faced with having to save a company whose structures he had only just become acquainted with.

Friends say Lord Barker is not in it for the money but for an opportunity to promote renewable energy, of which Mr. Deripaska has vast amounts thanks to his hydroelectric plants in Siberia and his investments in solar power.

“He would not compromise his beliefs for money,” said Peter Brown, a British businessman and friend of Lord Barker’s who once managed the Beatles.

In recent months, Lord Barker has lobbied Ireland’s business minister to press the Treasury Department to relent on sanctions. He has also made trips to Moscow and to Cyprus, where he presided over the annual general meeting of EN+.

Most important, Lord Barker began hiring lobbyists and lawyers in Washington to promote the Barker Plan. The core of that plan is the still-to-be-proved proposition that Lord Barker and his allies are not merely puppets, and that Mr. Deripaska is really willing to sell down his stake and step away from his empire.

The legal and lobbying teams for Mr. Deripaska’s companies have proposed various measures to reassure the United States government that he would truly do so — and not immediately benefit from an expected rebound in value that would come from lifting the corporate sanctions.

He and several allies have resigned from top positions at EN+ and Rusal. The Barker Plan also calls for the creation of an escrow account into which the proceeds from Mr. Deripaska’s stock sales would be deposited. He would be barred from accessing the money until he met certain conditions, including being removed from the personal sanctions list.

Lord Barker “wants to save Deripaska by getting rid of Deripaska,” said David Ruffley, a former British legislator and an old friend of Lord Barker’s. …

… In Washington, Lord Barker turned to Mercury Public Affairs. Only a few weeks after the sanctions were announced, Bryan Lanza, a former Trump campaign and transition aide who is now a Mercury lobbyist, contacted top officials at the Treasury and State Departments and at the White House.

At that point, Mercury was in the final stages of signing a $108,500-a-month contract to represent the board of directors of EN+. Mercury registered with the Justice Department as a “foreign agent” working on behalf of “Lord Gregory Barker of Battle,” not for Mr. Deripaska or his companies, which might have been prohibited under the sanctions. …

… If nothing else, the lobbying effort is notable for its scale. Lord Barker’s team and Mr. Deripaska’s companies have also turned to a trio of high-powered law firms to make their case to Treasury. Latham & Watkins is representing Lord Barker; Dentons is handling negotiations for Rusal; and Steptoe & Johnson is working for EN+, according to people familiar with the effort. …”

“Theresa May’s flagship policy to solve housing crisis will deliver no new homes in half of England”

“Theresa May’s flagship policy for sparking a revival in council housebuilding will not deliver a single new home in more than half of the local authorities in England, The Independent can reveal.

Some of the most deprived towns and cities with the greatest need for new homes, including Liverpool, Bolton and Wakefield, are among areas that will miss out as a result of changes that will only benefit some councils.

The prime minister used her speech to the Conservatives’ annual conference last month to announce a major change that will see the government scrap restrictions on how much councils can borrow to fund housing.

She said: “Solving the housing crisis is the biggest domestic policy challenge of our generation. It doesn’t make sense to stop councils from playing their part in solving it.”

No 10 said the move would allow councils to build up to 10,000 new homes a year for low-income families, as councils scale up borrowing by £4.6bn.

However, ministers have admitted that less than half of councils have the type of account that will allow them to increase their borrowing.

Only 160 of the 326 councils in England with responsibility for housing have housing revenue accounts (HRAs), the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said.

The revelation will prompt fears that people in areas with a desperate need for new homes will lose out, while those in neighbouring areas could benefit from a boom in housebuilding.

Councils set to miss out on the potential funding boost include several with some of the longest housing waiting lists in the country.

Authorities that will be unable to borrow more include Bolton, where 25,600 households are on the council waiting list – the third highest in England – and Wakefield, the sixth highest with 20,600 families waiting for a home.

Liverpool, which has the 11th longest waiting list, totalling 16,500 households, will also miss out.

The Independent has revealed that the government spending watchdog believes the lifting of the HRA cap will deliver far fewer new homes than Downing Street claimed.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said the move would result in fewer than 9,000 new homes over the next five and a half years – a fraction of the 10,000 per year predicted by ministers.

While it will allow councils to build 20,000 new homes – around 3,600 a year – the OBR said this would be offset by fewer homes being built by housing associations, meaning the net total is just 9,000.

Many councils have already transferred their housing stock to a housing association and closed their housing accounts, meaning they will miss out on the ability to use their increased borrowing powers to fund thousands of new homes.

In response to a parliamentary question from Labour, housing secretary James Brokenshire said: “There are 160 local housing authorities without a housing revenue account, as they have transferred their housing stock to a housing association.”

Governments have long encouraged councils to close their housing accounts and transfer their homes to a private body because, unlike council borrowing, housing association debt has traditionally not been included in national debt figures.

Under current rules, councils must own 200 homes before they are allowed to open a housing revenue account, creating an obstacle for many that might now wish to do so. Authorities are also likely to have lost their housing expertise when they transferred their properties to a housing association. …”


East Budleigh – rare bats or bulldozers? Special council meeting 7 November 2018

Clinton Devon Estates – which frequently touts its so-called environmental credentials – now has a difficult choice to make in East Budleigh – as does East Devon District Council.

A short notice special meeting of East Budleigh Parish Council has been called for 7pm on Tuesday 6 November to discuss the findings below which will bring into sharp relief a pressing question: which is most important: environmental sustainability and bio-diversity or cold, hard profit?

The East Budleigh Parish Wildlife Protection and Conservation Group was formed earlier this year to try to save what were thought to be 11 species of bat from having their habitat destroyed as a result of 18/1464/FUL — Demolition of existing barn and construction of a single dwelling behind the Pound. As a result of their observations they have recorded as many as 14 of the 18 known species in the UK.

This not only confirms but extends the survey conducted by Richard Green Ecology between 2012 and 2017 for Clinton Devon Estates (CDE). This survey found: the rare Greater Horseshoe (roosting); Lesser Horseshoe (roosting); the very rare Grey Long Earned (roosting); Natterer (roosting); Soprano and Pipistrelle (roosting). These findings make this site one of the most species rich in the County.

Of these, the finding of Grey Long Eared, Greater and Lesser Horseshoe bats are, perhaps, the most exciting as they are some of the rarest bat species in the UK.

EDDC, in order no doubt to inform the DMC, has just published an independent review of the CDE commissioned Richard Green ecology report. We the ratepayers have paid for this review and Owl wonders whether it represents value for money in these hard pressed times. All it appears to be, as is clear from the Terms of Reference, is a review of the 2012/2017 work done by Richard Green to see whether it was reasonable and in line with best practice, given the ecological constraints identified. Not surprisingly, since it was conducted by a reputable ecological survey firm, another equally reputable firm concludes it was fine.

This ratepayer funded review presents no new data to support or reject the more recent local finding of 14 bat species, indeed it couldn’t really do this because it was conducted too late in the year when bats are less active as they begin to hibernate and the surveyors didn’t venture onto private ground.

The original surveys were undertaken on 31 August and 10 September 2012 including a dusk bat emergence survey and placement of an automated bat detector in the barn between 11 and 17 September 2012, allowing recorded bat calls to be analysed. Further bat emergence surveys were undertaken on 25 May and 22 June 2016, and 31 July 2017. The East Budleigh Group have spent many evenings conducting observation using computer aided bat detectors this year, 2018.

One question not satisfactorily answered is whether the barn is being used as a maternity roost. This is particularly important as some species like the Grey Long Eared bat are so rare that research advice from the University of Bristol states that maternity roosts should not be destroyed under any circumstances as this would compromise the favourable conservation status of the species, particularly as research has shown maternity roosts of this species do not respond to mitigation measures.

In the UK, Grey Long-Eared bats tend to live in close proximity to human settlements and roost almost exclusively in man-made roosts making the barn in East Budleigh an important roost. The overall estimated population size is around 1000 making it one of the rarest of UK mammals. Its extinction risk is high due to its habitat specialisation of foraging close to or within the vegetation, its small foraging ranges and limited long distance dispersal ability is a result of its flight profile. There are only eight known maternity colonies left in the UK and females have only one pup a year. So there has to be one near the Pound.

Another question is whether the demolition and rebuild will destroy too much habitat so the bats will never return, despite “mitigation”. (When CDE developed the Budleigh Salterton allotment site their slow worm “mitigation” was a disaster, they were simply bulldozed away by mistake).

Surely we ought to be celebrating the discovery that East Budleigh has one of the most species diverse bat colonies in Devon rather than sending in the bulldozers – again.

Everyone involved would do well to read this recent article:

Essential medications after Brexit – a worrying silence

Guardian letters:

“Regarding Patrick Cosgrove’s letter (I don’t want to go blind due to Brexit, 29 October), I would like to make a similar case about type 1 diabetes.

Like Theresa May, I have type 1 diabetes and am insulin-dependent. I emailed Matt Hancock as I am concerned about how supplies of insulin will be ensured once we leave the EU. Diabetes patients may be interested in the response I received from the Department of Health and Social Care (and in knowing that Keith Vaz has emailed to say he will be taking my concerns further). The reply said the contingency plans include “precautionary stockpiling by suppliers, to ensure that the supply of insulin to patients is not disrupted”. This is worrying as insulin needs to be refrigerated and my understanding is that very little insulin is produced in this country. Perhaps Mrs May could give us some answers?
Lisa Parker
Nailsworth, Gloucestershire

• Patrick Cosgrove is not alone in trying, and failing, to find out about the availability of drugs on which he is dependent in the event of a no-deal Brexit. I am in a similar position. Over three months ago, I wrote to my MP (Julian Sturdy) and asked for “an informed comment on certainty of supply of pharmaceuticals in the event of a hard or ‘no deal’ Brexit”. Over six weeks later he replied, asking for details, which I supplied. Another six weeks have passed, 29 March looms, and I still have no information. I am coming to the frightening conclusion that no one actually has a clue about what will happen.
Steven Burkeman

• Patrick Cosgrove raises the pressing issue of medication availability post-Brexit. My own four daily doses are made variously in Austria, Germany, Spain and Slovenia. Without them I’m in trouble. But what about my son and all the other transplant patients who must have their anti-rejection meds? And those with diabetes? I await my MP’s advice, not very hopefully.

Any hope out there, anyone?
David Moore
Somerton, Somerset

• Like Patrick Cosgrove, I have hereditary glaucoma and have been prescribed Ganfort for many years. Three months ago my prescription was changed to preservative-free Ganfort. It is currently proving very difficult to obtain this due to the complexities of the pharmaceutical industry. Thanks to a diligent pharmacist, I’ve not been let down yet; my medicine has arrived monthly, but since the change in prescription it has been very delayed. I now need to order it earlier to ensure I am not left without. Last month it came via a Spanish source.

I don’t want to go blind for this “cause” either. To the government: open your eyes and see (unless you have glaucoma).
Gill Sellen
Corfe Castle, Dorset”


“Terry is dying, and there’s no one to care for him: the real impacts of the NHS crisis”

“The doctors in my practice have well over 100 years of combined experience as GPs, so you’d think we’d seen pretty much everything. But last week we were confronted with a scenario we had never before encountered.

The patient concerned – a 42-year-old called Terry – has been battling a particularly nasty form of lymphoma for several years. He’s an unconventional person, and his life hasn’t featured much in the way of stable relationships, but he has an elderly aunt and uncle who have stuck by him as he’s sought alternative remedies for the disease that orthodox medicine has been unable to cure.

He’s now arrived at the end of the line. The lymphoma is overwhelming him, leaving him incapable of getting out of bed, let alone managing his daily needs for food, drink and hygiene. While he kept mainstream services at arm’s length during his exploration of complementary therapies, he’s now relying on us in what will be his final days.

What is required more than anything is help meeting his basic human needs. One of my partners spent quite some time on the phone, organising equipment at short notice, rapid hospice outreach support and an urgent social care assessment. The social worker came to an uncontentious conclusion: Terry needed care visits four times a day. But she was sorry, this wasn’t going to be possible. It wasn’t the funding – despite ongoing budget cuts, they still have money for cases like this. No, it was staff. There are not enough care workers. They simply have no one available to look after Terry.

This is unprecedented, and I actually couldn’t compute it when my colleague broke the news. A swift look at the figures, though, tells you everything you need to know. According to the training charity Skills for Care, there are now 110,000 vacancies in adult social care – that’s around 8 per cent of all positions unfilled. And this is an exponentially increasing trend – 22,000 of those posts have been added to the total over the past year. Job turnover in the sector is around 30 per cent.

The reasons for this crisis are multiple, and most can be laid squarely at the door of the current government. Years of austerity-driven spending cuts have piled stress and pressure on staff, many of whom have voted with their feet. Others have gone for different reasons: around one in six of our care workforce have traditionally come from EU countries; Brexit Britain has become a very unattractive proposition. Caps on non-EU, “low-skilled” immigrant numbers have choked off alternative sources. And as ever fewer staff struggle to cope with constantly increasing demand, stress and demoralisation mount further.

My partner spent another hour on the phone trying to find some way of getting Terry help. The service specifically set up to avoid “inappropriate” acute hospital admissions had no available cottage hospital or nursing home beds – the only solution they could offer was to throw in the towel and admit Terry to our local district general. As winter takes hold, and yet again you hear about patients who don’t need to be in hospital “blocking” beds, remember Terry’s story.

Terry did not want to die in a busy, noisy hospital ward. He is currently being supported by a rag-tag assembly consisting of his remaining elderly relatives, a hospice night-sitter, and some capacity that my partner eventually managed to beg from the community rehabilitation team.

The government’s response to the care crisis is to be a “national recruitment campaign”, due to be launched any time now. I predict it will be as successful as that aimed at attracting an extra 5,000 GPs by 2020 (numbers continue to fall). At some point, surely, someone has to wake up and accept that sparkly adverts won’t recruit and retain staff when services are so chronically underfunded and overstretched. By then, though, it will be too late for Terry, and for many others like him nationwide. ”

Phil Whitaker

NIMBY MPs get their way in Milton Keynes

“Plans for a major expansion of one of Britain’s best known “new towns” were dropped from the Budget at the eleventh hour after heated objections from a government whip and a defence minister, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.

Iain Stewart and Mark Lancaster, the Tory MPs for Milton Keynes, opposed proposals for some 100,000 new homes on the outskirts of the town, over fears that an influx of residents could clog up its roads and overburden the local hospital. …”