“Persimmon bosses paid another £90m: Trio pocket £193m in just two years”

“Three Persimmon bosses have been paid nearly £200m in just two years as they cash in on Help to Buy.

Jeff Fairburn, Dave Jenkinson and Mike Killoran were handed £90m last year as the housebuilder racked up record profits of £1.1 billion.

That followed awards of £102.8m in 2017, taking their total earnings over the period to £192.8m.

Critics branded the ‘egregious’ payouts – which were disclosed in the company’s annual report – as ‘completely inappropriate’.

Persimmon has faced a fierce backlash over the rewards, which stem from a generous bonus scheme set up in 2012. The builder has also been criticised for shoddy workmanship and the sale of homes with rip-off leases.

Persimmon has benefited from the Government’s Help to Buy mortgage scheme that offers families loans from the taxpayer so they can secure a mortgage. Nearly half of the 16,449 homes it built last year were sold through Help to Buy as Persimmon cashed in on the subsidy.

The pay row, however, cost Fairburn his job. The 52-year-old – who was handed £45.7m in 2017 and a further £39m in 2018 – was forced out at the end of last year as Persimmon sought to draw a line under the scandal.

Chairman Roger Devlin, brought in to repair the company’s battered reputation, promoted Jenkinson to replace Fairburn.

In a bid to draw a line under the row, Jenkinson’s salary was held at £515,000, the same as when he was managing director, and he has agreed not to take a bonus this year. But the 51-year-old was paid £20.4m in 2017 and £25m last year, according to the annual report. Finance director Killoran, 56, was handed £36.7m in 2017 and £26m in 2018.

Sources at the company pointed out that these payouts dated back to the 2012 bonus scheme and would not be repeated.

And writing in the annual report, Devlin said the builder was transforming the way it behaved: ‘We are changing our pay and incentives to include greater emphasis on both quality and customer care with plans that are more rigorous than we have had in the past.’

But Luke Hildyard, director of the High Pay Centre, said: ‘These egregious pay outs are completely inappropriate.

‘They are a massive embarrassment for the company and really ought to be an embarrassment for the individuals as well.

‘It shows a total failure of corporate governance.

‘This view that a few top executives need these vast payments lavished upon them in order to get out of bed in the morning is worrying and damming of the culture at the business.

‘The company has tried to draw a line under this and this is the result of past practices. But it continues to cause damage.’

Labour MP John Mann, a member of the Treasury Select Committee, said: ‘These vast sums of money will rightly disgust homebuyers struggling to get on the ladder. They suggest once again that housebuilders’ profits – and pay packets – are out of control.’


“Official Brexit rural impact report includes phrase: ‘we are f*****’ “

“An official report on the impact Brexit will have on rural Scotland includes the quote: “We are f*****,” it has emerged.

A document published by Scottish Rural Action (SRA) featured a side banner on page four carrying the statement.

It was one of a number of banners attributed to participants in a workshop which asked them to imagine what newspaper headlines they might expect to see after the UK leaves the EU.

Amanda Burgauer, SRA chairwoman, said the exercise had been used as an “icebreaker” and that several of the participants used “earthy language” in describing their feelings towards Brexit.

The comments are only explained on the following page, saying they had been put forward by those taking part in the workshop event.

Ms Burgauer said she would flag up the “design and layout” issue with the SRA design team. …”


Now new Barratt homes in Devon getting bad publicity for faults

“What was meant to be a family’s forever home has turned into a living nightmare after they suffered more than 100 problems with their new build – including a millipede infestation.

They moved into their detached four-bed house, built by Barratt Homes in tucked away development Hawthorne Rise in Newton Abbot, nearly two years ago and say they have since had more than 100 snagging issues with the property.

The mother-of-two, who asked not to be named, says the latest issue to be investigated is insufficient drainage in their sloping garden which has caused a millipede infestation and it to become boggy. …”


“Shadow state” and privatisation – part 4

“Police have launched a criminal investigation into allegations of fraud at the UK’s largest government-funded apprenticeship provider.

Derbyshire constabulary said its specialist fraud investigation unit has begun a formal fraud investigation into the collapse of 3aaa, which was training 4,216 apprentices at companies including Ocado, Volkswagen and the National Grid.

“A formal criminal investigation has been launched into 3aaa,” a police spokesman said. “This follows a number of allegations of fraud that have been made by the Department for Education against the firm. Officers from Derbyshire constabulary’s specialist fraud investigation team will now begin the process of making formal inquiries into these allegations.”

The firm, which received £31m of government money last year, was placed into compulsory liquidation in October 2018 after the DfE withdrew all funding following allegations of fraud.

More than half of the apprentices being trained by 3aaa – which stands for aspire, achieve and advance – have been left in limbo by the collapse. Almost 2,000 of the 4,216 apprentices have been moved to new providers.

The founders of 3aaa, Peter Marples and Di McEvoy-Robinson, resigned as directors of the company shortly before its collapse last year.

Separate to the fraud allegations, an investigation by the Guardian and the higher education journal FE Week revealed that 3aaa had spent £1.6m of its mostly government-funded income on professional sports sponsorship.

The money was spent on sponsorship between 2015-18, despite the firm making a £2.8m pre-tax losses in the 18 months to January 2018, according to unpublished company accounts.

It spent £480,000 to become the “principal partner” of Derbyshire county cricket club, which includes shirt sponsorship and the right to rename the club’s 147-year-old ground as “the 3aaa County Ground”.

The sponsorship deal gave Marples and McEvoy-Robinson access to the team’s 1870 Business Club – a “relaxed and informal environment where local businesses can meet, create new contacts and watch first-class cricket”. Marples and McEvoy-Robinson are seen in the club’s team photo.

There is no suggestion that the sports sponsorship deals form part of the police fraud investigation.

A DfE spokesperson said: “As a criminal investigation is now under way, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

It is the second time the DfE has investigated alleged wrongdoing at 3aaa. A previous investigation in 2016 by the auditing firm KPMG found that 3aaa had been overestimating its apprenticeship success rate.”


Seaton Lib Dem Councillor ‘censors’ councillor publicising bus consultation

Astounding that something as neutral (and important) as a consultation on changes to major bus routes to and from Seaton should be censored. And even a pitiful and low-bar excuse of a ‘political post’ (assuming that is the reason) doesn’t hold water as Councillor Shaw is not up for re-election until 2022!

Councillor Burrows, in the other hand, IS up for re-election on 2 May 2019 – even though he had to resign as Mayor, admitted that he had brought the town council into disrepute AND was censured by EDDC – if the Lib Dems can’t find a better candidate! If they can’t, it really doesn’t say much for the quality of their current membership in Seaton!

From the blog of Seaton and Colyton East Devon Alliance DCC Councillor Martin Shaw:

“Seaton EDDC and town councillor Peter Burrows (pictured in his Facebook logo with the late Liberal Democrat leader, Paddy Ashdown) resigned as mayor in January after self-confessedly ‘bringing the town council into disrepute’ after abusing a ‘Tourist Information Centre’ Twitter account to pursue a personal grudge.

Now, in the very week in which East Devon’s Monitoring Officer has formally censured him on four counts, Burrows and his co-administrator, Tony Antoniou, have abused their positions as admins on a community Facebook group to remove me from the group, as I found when I tried to post details of the Stagecoach bus consultation to the group, to which I’ve belonged for years. No warning was given and neither has responded to requests for an explanation.

This example of arbitrary censorship raises two fingers to Town Council recommendations – in response to Burrows’ January actions and expected to be adopted in two weeks’ time – that councillors should ‘behave responsibly, considerately and professionally’ on social media and should NOT be Facebook admins.

It is laughable for Burrows to call himself a Liberal Democrat. This self-appointed Town Censor has no respect for the idea that a community Facebook group – the group in question is called Positive Development for Everyone in Seaton and was set up after a community meeting – should be open to a County Councillor to post important local information, and indeed for members to express views different from the admins’.

There is a long history of Burrows arbitrarily removing people and posts from different Facebook groups. I have considerable respect for the Liberal Democrats – their members on the County Council are fine councillors and I work with them closely – but Burrows is bringing his party into disrepute. I am reporting him to their regional organisation for his latest antics.”

Seaton’s rogue councillor is at it again on Facebook. I’m reporting him to the Liberal Democrats, because this self-appointed Town Censor certainly isn’t a liberal. Paddy Ashdown must be turning in his grave.

Shadow state – part 3

And now the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting agrees privatisation isn’t working. The National Audit Office and the Government’s own Public Accounts Committee have said the same.

Will this cause a change of policy – particularly in the NHS? Not a chance!

“The collapse of outsourcing giant Interserve will be “costly and disruptive” for the public sector, a public services commentator has told PF.

Interserve, one of Britain’s biggest government contractors, was due to file for administration this evening. This was after just under 60% of the company’s shareholders voted against a rescue plan earlier today.

The business holds thousands of public sector contracts, including for local government, cleaning schools and hospitals. It also runs catering and probation services as well as managing construction projects.

John Tizard told PF that public sector clients will need to “spring into action either to bring the services back into public management or to broker the contracts to other contractors”.

The firm’s collapse will likely be “costly and disruptive” for public services, he added. The ‘deleveraging plan’, proposed on Friday, would have seen creditors take control in a ‘debt-for-equity’ swap. It was rejected 59% to 41% by shareholders.

The rescue plan would have meant lenders being given the greater number of shares in the business with the shareholders’ stake being reduced to 5%, the BBC has reported. A US hedge fund Coltrane, which owns 27% of the company, voted to reject the proposals.

Tizard told PF: “It’s another question mark over the appropriateness of outsourcing particularly on this scale – to companies that have business models which are risky and fragile and where ownership changes.

“They are likely to go into administration because Coltrane has said they won’t vote for the deal, but can we really afford to have key public services decided by US hedge funds?” he queried.

Tizard said he had no doubt that contingency plans will have been drawn and added that it was now necessary for public sector clients to implement these.

Interserve employs 45,000 people in the UK. Its website also states that it provides probation services for 40,000 people on behalf of the Ministry of Justice.

A damning report from the National Audit Office recently highlighted the failings of prison reforms, which saw probation services transferred to the private sector.”


“Shadow state” part 2

To be read with the chilling post below. When The Guardian AND The Times agree, something is DEFINITELY going wrong!

“The government has been accused of “irresponsibility” as it emerged that Interserve won £660 million worth of public contracts as it slid into a financial crisis that led to its collapse into administration last week.

Analysis of government projects has revealed that the outsourcing giant was handed public jobs worth £432 million in 2017 and £233 million last year. The deals were awarded even while it advised investors of its financial problems.

On Friday the parent company of the key government contractor entered administration after its largest shareholder, a US hedge fund, blocked a rescue deal. It was immediately bought out by lenders, wiping out shareholders and leading to uncertainty for its workforce. Interserve had annual revenues of £2.9 billion but a move into building energy-from-waste incinerators went awry. It cost the business £280 million and its share price collapsed.

Research by Tussell, a data analytics provider specialising in government contracting, shows that the company continued to win lucrative jobs. For example, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office awarded Interserve £66 million for facilities management services in July. The company had issued profit warnings in May 2016 and twice in 2017. Since it began lining up a rescue deal in December, it had won £6 million of taxpayer-funded work.

Interserve is one of Britain’s leading providers of privatised public sector services, with 45,000 workers maintaining and cleaning schools, hospitals, railway stations, government departments, armed forces facilities and job centres. The rapid “pre-pack” sale of the company to its lenders has allowed its operating subsidiaries to continue trading with customers and suppliers.

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said: “The awarding of contracts follows a robust process, including financial checks.”

Source: Times (pay wall)

Privatisation: ” a shadow state apparatus run solely for profit”

“Oh, how we laughed. Failing Grayling, the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, the Mr Bean of contemporary politics, had awarded a cross-Channel ferry contract to Seaborne, a company that had no ferries and had never run a ferry service. Six weeks later, the contract was torn up.

The trouble is, the laugh’s on us too. For it’s not just Grayling who’s failing. The Seaborne style of awarding contracts – never mind the competence, just get the signature – has long been the public sector norm for outsourced work. The result has been scandalous services and collapsing companies.

Consider Interserve. It’s another of those corporations, like Capita, Carillion and Serco, with bland names, barely visible to the public, but which have become a kind of shadow state, providing much of Britain’s essential public services.The outsourcing of public services began as a Thatcherite policy in the late 1980s, became turbocharged under New Labour and was pushed further still by the coalition government after 2010. An Institute for Government report last year calculated that a third of government expenditure – £284bn – was disbursed to external suppliers handling everything from parking permits to immigration control to the maintenance of nuclear warheads.

But why should the same company be deemed capable of motorway construction and probation management, of sewer repairs and hospital catering? And why is this not as scandalous as a company with no ferries being awarded a ferry contract?

Interserve is not unique. Take Serco, which began life as the British arm of the US entertainment firm RCA. By the late 1980s it had changed its name and aggressively moved to take advantage of the market in government outsourcing. Within 25 years, it was running everything from out-of-hours GP services to asylum detention centres.

It’s not uncommon for companies to change strategy or seek new markets, but this usually involves having some expertise in the subject. When it comes to public service contracts, however, expertise appears to mean primarily the ability to win contracts. Serco’s “panache in the bidding process”, one report observed, allowed it to “beat out competition from specialist firms”.

Inevitably, this has led to a constant stream of debacles. From charging for the tagging of nonexistent criminals to accusations of neglect and sexual assault at Yarl’s Wood migrant detention centre, from allegations of data falsification in an out-of-hours GP service to disastrous work capability assessments, the one thing that outsourcing companies have never been able to outsource is the stench of scandal.

A decade ago, such companies were boasting about reaping the rewards of the financial crash. Paul Pindar, CEO of Capita, told the Financial Times that he’d be “deeply disappointed” if the company did not double revenues from government contracts within five years. In fact, within a decade, Capita was knee-deep in debt and issuing profit warnings. Serco’s profits had already plummeted. Carillion collapsed. And now Interserve is in administration.

Government cuts may have opened up new markets, but they also squeezed profit margins. Combined with greed and overstretch and never-ending scandals, outsourcing companies have been forced into a “bankrupt” business model of chasing new public sector contracts to make up for the razor-thin margins in the old ones.

Shareholders have seen assets disappear and creditors have lost money. But the real losers are NHS patients, benefits claimants, asylum detainees – and the tens of thousands of workers employed by such companies, often in gig-economy conditions.

It’s time we recognised that the policy of giving construction or facilities management companies power over health provision, welfare assessment or prisoners is as rational as awarding a ferry contract to a company that’s never ferried a bugger in its life.”