Gofundme started for MP who described his £82,000 a-year salary as ‘really grim’

A fundraiser has been set up poking fun at a Tory MP who used a media interview to complain about his £82,000 salary amid a cost of living crisis.

www.independent.co.uk 

Sir Peter Bottomley, the Conservative MP for Worthing West and the Father of the House of Commons, described MPs’ pay packets as “really grim”, despite their wages putting them in the top 5 per cent of earners in the UK.

He called for members’ salaries to be boosted to somewhere in the region of £100,000, saying the situation was “desperately difficult” for newer MPs, adding: “I don’t know how they manage”.

Now, a Gofundme user going by the name of Simon Harris has shown his concern for Sir Peter by attempting to raise £20,000 to boost his earnings.

“Support this Tory MP struggling on £80k a year,” the page description reads.

“I am raising £20,000 for Sir Peter Bottomley who has courageously admitted that he is ‘struggling’ on the current MP’s salary of £80,000 per year,” it adds.

The page was created on Wednesday and has so far raised £70 from six generous donors.

In an interview with the New Statesman, published on the day when the £20 uplift to Universal Credit was axed, Sir Peter called for MPs to get a pay rise,  pointing out that their salaries do not cover expenses.

He suggested taxpayers should foot the bill for the things the rest of the public has to pay for, such as food and travel.

The median salary in the UK is just over £31,000, according to the Office for National Statistics, while those paid in excess of £80,000 are in the top 5 per cent of earners.

An increase of £18,000 a year to MPs’ salaries would represent a rise of almost 22 per cent.

The government this year offered NHS staff a rise of 3 per cent.

Speaking on LBC Radio on Thursday morning, Sir Peter defended his comments and suggested he would be in favour of slashing numbers in the Commons in order to increase MPs’ pay.

He also claimed that “a good teacher, a good social worker or a good trade union official” would be “significantly worse off” if they went into politics.

According to the government’s Get Into Teaching website, a qualified teacher working in inner London can earn a maximum of £50,953 and up to £41,604 for the rest of England and Wales.

The median salary for a social workers is £37,000 according to payscale.com.

Trade union officials can earn between £30,000 to £80,000, according to the National Careers Service.

Private hospitals treated just eight Covid patients a day despite deal to help NHS

Private hospitals treated a total of just eight Covid patients a day during the pandemic despite a multi-billion pound deal with the government to help stop the NHS being overwhelmed, a report reveals.

Denis Campbell www.theguardian.com

And they also performed far fewer operations on NHS-funded patients than usual, even though hospitals has suspended much non-Covid care, according to research by a thinktank.

The Treasury agreed in March 2020 to pay for a deal to block-book the entire capacity of all 7,956 beds in England’s 187 private hospitals along with their almost 20,000 staff to help supplement the NHS’s efforts to cope with the unfolding pandemic. It is believed to have cost £400m a month.

However, the Centre for Health and the Public Interest’s report (Pdf) says that on 39% of days between March 2020 and March this year, private hospitals treated no Covid patients at all and on a further 20% of days they cared for only one person. Overall, they provided only 3,000 of the 3.6m Covid bed days in those 13 months – just 0.08% of the total.

And while private hospitals undertook 3.6m NHS-funded planned procedures the year before, that dropped to only 2m during the first year of the pandemic – a fall of 43% – the thinktank says. Its conclusions are based on its analysis of two major sets of published NHS activity data.

“Despite the fact that the taxpayer paid undisclosed billions to the private hospital sector, which prevented some of the companies going bust, the official data shows that they barely treated any Covid patients and delivered less elective work for the NHS than they did prior to the pandemic,” said Sid Ryan, a researcher at the CHPI who wrote the report.

The NHS’s “under-utilisation of the private hospital sector” should not have surprised ministers, Ryan added, “because private hospitals may have beds and operating theatres, but they rely on NHS staff to carry out operations, and these NHS staff were busy working in NHS hospitals. Which begs the question: why then did the government agree to this generous deal?”

At the time NHS England (NHSE) lauded the deal as a vital way of boosting healthcare capacity at a time when it was feared that NHS hospitals would run out of space to treat Covid sufferers. In two letters to the wider NHS explaining why the deal had been struck and what it would cover, senior NHS officials were clear that it would include care for Covid patients with serious breathing problems as well as routine operations, such as hip and knee replacements.

Ryan criticised the continuing secrecy around the contract. Neither ministers nor NHSE have ever disclosed how much it cost the Treasury or given a breakdown of the number of non-Covid procedures that resulted.

Labour MP Meg Hillier, who chairs the Commons public accounts committee, said the findings showed the government and NHS had got poor value for money from the very expensive deal.

“Millions of pounds of unfit PPE languishing in costly storage and the £530m spent on unused Nightingale hospitals, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has repeatedly demonstrated its lack of competence in dealing with the private sector.

“Here taxpayers have covered an entire year of private hospitals’ costs in return for less treatment and care than before, and many of them now feel forced to pay those same private hospitals over again in the face of an NHS beset with lengthy backlogs.”

The DHSC should be open about how much care private hospitals did provide and try to claw back moneys for treatment that was paid for but not given, she added.

Under questioning by Hillier at the PAC in June 2020 Simon Stevens, NHSE’s then chief executive, promised to write to her disclosing how many of the 8,000 beds had been used and how much the deal was costing. However, when NHS England’s chief financial officer, Julian Kelly, later replied on Stevens’ behalf, he said the contract had cost £853m in just over its first four months but did not clarify how many beds had been pressed into service.

The Independent Healthcare Providers Network, which negotiated the deal on behalf of private hospitals, insisted that it was never intended to cover people with Covid, despite NHS England’s two letters making it clear that such patients were included.

“Given that the NHS asked the independent sector to maintain Covid-free sites for vulnerable patients including those with cancer it is not surprising that few Covid patients were treated in independent hospitals. To have done so would not have been appropriate or safe,” said David Hare, the IHPN’s chief executive.

He added that more than 3.2 million NHS patients were treated in the independent sector under the contract, without which the NHS’s 5.6m-strong backlog would be even bigger.

A DHSC spokesperson said: “We will make no apology for ensuring that the NHS has the resources it needs to provide care for patients during a global pandemic. The primary aim of the independent sector deal was to treat non-Covid 19 patients, providing urgent cancer services and other life-saving treatments.”

The contract meant that “around two million consultations, tests, operations and chemotherapy sessions for NHS patients [took place] between March 2020 and the end of 2020”, they added – far fewer than the 3.2m claimed by the IHPN.

Looted temples, poisoned towns and latest Pandora Papers impact

A flurry of fallout continues around the world days after ICIJ and global media partners begin to publish findings from the biggest offshore leak in history.

No mention of UK taking swift action despite more than one in four of the individuals named in the Pandora leaks are UK citizens.

us15.campaign-archive.com /

Lawmakers, officials and regulators from more than a dozen countries have responded to the Pandora Papers with calls for inquiries and promises of swift action to plug loopholes that have allowed secrecy to flourish in the financial system. Here are some highlights so far:

The Pandora papers have exposed the ‘for sale’ sign hanging over Britain 

“More than one in four of the individuals named in the Pandora leaks are UK citizens….” 

“Most worryingly, the corruption that infects our economy and our property market is now infecting our politics and the public sphere, from dodgy donations, to government contracts dished out to cronies….”

Margaret Hodge www.theguardian.com 

There’s a “for sale” sign hanging over Britain. The Pandora papers have exposed how secrecy, influence, property and other assets are freely available to the highest bidder. Huge data dumps like this provide an invaluable peek into the secret world of offshore finance and the way it is exploited by the world’s richest people. Yet again, the UK and its tax havens stand at the heart of the world’s tax avoidance and dirty money crises. Britain asks few questions, doesn’t care who you are, and doesn’t mind where your money comes from.

We now know that 35 current or former heads of state have exploited secrecy to avoid paying fair taxes, to hide their wealth from the population, or to launder money they have stolen from their own people into Britain and elsewhere. We’ve also learned that the Conservative party has received millions of pounds in donations from oligarchs in foreign jurisdictions, who used their wealth to gain access to and influence over our government leaders here in Britain.

The Pandora papers identified secret property transactions worth £4bn. That’s a huge amount, but it barely touches the sides of the £170bn of UK property that is estimated to be owned offshore. It is outrageous that property in the UK is so liberally used as a vehicle to launder money and to hide personal wealth.

Abuse of the property market often works like this. You set up an anonymous shell company in a secret offshore jurisdiction such as the British Virgin Islands. You transfer your money (which may have been stolen from your fellow countrymen and women) into that shell company. The company then buys a property in the UK. You then have a luxury home in the UK. Or you sell the company to a UK citizen who pays you with legitimate money. You have then successfully laundered your money into a trusted jurisdiction. And as an added bonus, because the transaction involves a company and not an individual, you avoid paying UK stamp duty on the property.

More than one in four of the individuals named in the Pandora leaks are UK citizens. This includes some who have secured “golden visas” into the UK because of their individual wealth, which they have then effortlessly converted into British citizenship. Others, such as Tina Green, the wife of the British businessman and former BHS owner Philip Green, are British citizens who have set up shop in tax havens. Green grew her multimillion pound property empire in Monaco while BHS crumbled, leaving many jobless.

There are other striking stories. The crown estate bought a £67m London property from the notoriously kleptocratic ruling family of Azerbaijan. The Pandora papers show this family alone making £400m-worth of property transactions. The Russian oligarch Mikhail Gutseriev is under sanction by the UK for his close ties to the corrupt Belarusian regime, yet his family owns £50m of London property. The family behind the “world’s biggest bribe scandal” – Unaoil – allegedly laundered money into commercial property in the UK.

Central London is the heartland for much of this wrongdoing. Meanwhile, farther out in the capital, in my constituency of Barking, working people are facing a tough winter as a result of the cut to universal credit, skyrocketing energy bills, the end of furlough, rising prices and long queues at the petrol pumps. It’s one rule for the super-rich, and another for the rest of us.

Using secretive tax havens and shell companies is not necessarily illegal. But it often involves aggressive tax avoidance and it is certainly immoral. Too often such structures are set up to facilitate money laundering. These complex financial arrangements are mostly created by those who provide services to the super-rich – the lawyers, accountants, bankers and estate agents. They provide cover for anonymous transactions, yet they, the enablers, are not held to account for their role in this scandal.

There are ways to fix this mess. We need a public register of the overseas or offshore ownership of UK property. With transparency and accuracy we can then follow the money, limit tax avoidance and prevent shady individuals abusing the UK property market. For all their faults, David Cameron and George Osborne understood this. In 2016 they promised us this public property register. The Tories consulted in 2017; drafted a bill in 2018; included it in the 2019 Queen’s speech; and committed to it again at the recent G7. Yet we are still waiting for it to come into force. I am tired of empty promises.

At the same time the Tories have promised – but failed – to reform Companies House so that ne’er-do-wells stop using our institutions to set up companies in the UK that are then used for illicit purposes. The government consistently refuses to hold the professional enablers to account. It fails to resource the regulatory bodies that police financial crime properly – from HMRC to the National Crime Agency to the Serious Fraud Office and the police. It is always reluctant to enforce even our weak laws by taking court action against the super-rich.

Most worryingly, the corruption that infects our economy and our property market is now infecting our politics and the public sphere, from dodgy donations, to government contracts dished out to cronies. If we’re serious about tackling tax avoidance, illicit finance and putting an end to corruption then we need to get our own back yard in order. Sadly, we are led by a prime minister who simply doesn’t seem to care.

  • Margaret Hodge has been the Labour MP for Barking since 1994

Eight false claims made in Boris Johnson’s Conservative party conference speech

Rich with jokes but devoid of new policy announcements – or a plan for “levelling up” – Boris Johnson’s crowd-pleasing Manchester speech was also peppered with inaccuracies.

www.independent.co.uk 

1.The claim:

“After years of stagnation – more than a decade – wages are going up, faster than before the pandemic began.”

The reality:

The respected Institute for Fiscal Studies says wages are rising no faster than in recent years. Furthermore – while pay is up by about four per cent – inflation is above three per cent, so there is no “significant wage growth”.

2. The claim:

“We will make this country an even more attractive destination for foreign direct investment. We are already the number one.”

The reality:

Last month’s UN World Investment Report said foreign investment had “declined for the second year in a row” – leaving the UK the 16th largest recipient, down “five positions”.

3. The claim:

“It was not the government that made the wonder drug. It was capitalism that ensured that we had a vaccine in less than a year.”

The reality:

The AstraZeneca jab was made by scientists at Oxford University through a programme that was overwhelmingly funded by taxpayers and charities, with less than two per cent from private funding.

4. The claim:

“We are going to use our Brexit freedoms to do things differently… we have seen off the European Super League and protected grassroots football. We are doing at least eight freeports.”

The reality:

The Super League had nothing to do with the EU or Brexit, it was a private venture, while freeports were entirely possible as an EU member. In fact, the UK used to have seven.

5. The claim:

“We have done 68 free-trade deals.”

The reality:

All but two are “rollovers” of deals that the UK already enjoyed as an EU member. The Japan deal added no significant extra, trade experts found, while the agreement with the EU itself is vastly inferior, causing a massive slump in exports.

6. The claim:

“This party that has looked after the NHS for most of its history should be the one to rise to the challenge – 48 new hospitals.”

The reality:

Many of the 48 promised are new units at existing hospitals, or major refurbishments of them, while others are rebuilds of community hospitals. In August, it was revealed that NHS bosses had been ordered to describe all such projects as “a new hospital”.

7. The claim:

“When I stood on the steps of Downing Street, I promised to fix this [social care] crisis. This government… is going to get social care done.”

The reality:

In that speech in July 2019, the prime minister said he already had “a clear plan we have prepared”. The plan took two years to emerge and the vast majority of new funding will go to the NHS, not social care

8. The claim:

Labour “decided to oppose step four of the roadmap in July”, which would have meant the UK “would still be in lockdown”.

The reality:

Labour supported the lifting of social distancing restrictions – the key aspect of step four – reserving its criticism for ending the requirement to wear masks in crowded indoor settings and the lifting of work-from-home guidance.

EDDC to combat housing crisis with creation of affordable housing task force

An affordable housing task force to combat the housing crisis in East Devon is to be created following a decision by the cabinet at East Devon District Council (EDDC) this week.

Joe Ives, Local Democracy Reporter sidmouth.nub.news 

The task force will be a team of newly hired staff with the aim of increasing affordable housing in the district.

According to a report by Devon Home Choice, more than 2,650 households are in housing need in East Devon, the third-highest in the county.

The affordable housing task force is expected to cost around half a million pounds and to run for at least two years, paid for from a budget underspend in the 2021/22 financial year, which ends next March.

A report by officers into a potential task force said: “The need for more affordable housing is highly evident, with demand outstripping supply and has resulted in an increase in the housing register and homelessness.”

Councillor Steve Gazzard (Liberal Democrat, Exmouth Withycombe Raleigh) told the cabinet: “It is imperative that we do something…There is a crisis in housing.

“There’s not a day goes by that, as a councillor, I don’t have people contacting me saying ‘I’m at my wit’s end. I’m pulling my hair out. I see somewhere advertised and by the time the morning comes and I pick the phone up it’s gone.’ That’s happening every day.”

The report says that the council should continue to look at multiple ways of delivering affordable housing, including working with housing associations, supporting community land trusts and seeking opportunities to build new homes through the planning process, whilst in the short term searching for “quick wins” by buying homes that are currently available.

The council says it provides 200 to 300 new affordable homes per year, mainly through the purchase of existing properties, but this isn’t enough. One officer described it as “no small feat, but insufficient to keep pace with current demand.”

It is also thought the government’s Right to Buy policy is undermining efforts to provide social housing. At present EDDC is forced to sell around 30 properties each year as people choose to buy their council house. One officer described it as a process that is “haemorrhaging” social housing in the area.

Though fully in support of creating the new task force, Councillor Jack Rowland (Independent East Devon Alliance, Seaton) said he expected East Devon’s housing crisis to get worse before it gets better, citing the end of the eviction ban in May and the end of the furlough scheme last month.

Councillor Eileen Wragg (Liberal Democrats, Exmouth Town) agreed: “I believe we are facing an extremely harsh winter”, saying rising fuel costs and the end of the £20 Universal Credit uplift this week will heap pressure on people already struggling to get by.

She added: “Far from it being a better Christmas than last year, as the prime minister has said, I believe it’s going to be a pretty grim Christmas and we’re going to see an increase in homelessness and people on the streets.”

Last month EDDC agreed to hire two extra housing officers to help to manage soaring levels of homelessness in the district. A council report said an “unsustainable” number of people were approaching it for help, with some housing staff having to take time off because of stress.

The decision to create the affordable housing task force was unanimously agreed by East Devon’s cabinet. It will now be presented to the rest of the council for final approval.

Pollution warnings issued for Devon beaches

More than a dozen beaches lining the Devon coasts have been issued with ‘do not swim’ warnings by an environmental charity.

Including Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton where the alert system hasn’t been working for ages.

Ami Wyllie www.devonlive.com 

According to the Surfers’ Against Sewage water quality map, sewers have been emptied into the water of 13 popular beaches on both the North and South coasts.

Messages on the alerts state that the situation has been made worse or, in some cases, caused by recent heavy rain which battered the county.

Read more:Heroic cyclist was tragically unable to save dying man’s life

The charity, who campaign against water pollution, advise that swimmers and surfers stay out of the water to avoid getting sick or ingesting sewage.

Warnings are put in place on beaches where a sewer has been ‘discharged’ within 48 hours, often due to heavy rainfall causing an overflow.

(Image: Surfer’s Against Sewage)

Here’s a round-up of the beaches you should avoid and where the sewage is coming from, according to Surfer’s Against Sewage:

Combe Martin

Storm sewage has been discharged from a sewer overflow in this location within the past 48 hours.

A sewer overflow discharges into the Umber River some 30m upstream of the beach with two more discharging further upstream. Other discharges from the surrounding urban area may also affect water quality particularly after heavy rainfall.

Woolacombe

Storm sewage has been discharged from a sewer overflow in this location within the past 48 hours.

A sewer overflow discharges to the sea just under 700m to the NW of the beach. Other forms of discharge may flow into the Woolacombe Stream and may affect bathing water.

Goodrington

Storm sewage has been discharged from a sewer overflow in this location within the past 48 hours.

There is one sewer overflow discharging directly onto the beach in the middle of Goodrington while another discharges 500m upstream in the Goodrington Stream that then meets the sea towards the southern end of the beach.

Paignton Sands

Storm sewage has been discharged from a sewer overflow in this location within the past 48 hours.

There are two sewer overflows located on Paignton Sands – one at the southern end of the beach and another offshore of the harbour.

Westward Ho!

Storm sewage has been discharged from a sewer overflow in this location within the past 48 hours.

A sewer overflow discharges to the sea at Nose Rock at the southern end of the beach while the Tawe/Torridge estuary also receives overflows from the surrounding urban area which may affect water quality especially after heavy rainfall.

Preston Sands

Storm sewage has been discharged from a sewer overflow in this location within the past 48 hours.

There is a sewer overflow that discharges at the northern end of the beach from the Preston Green Attenuation Tank.

Torre Abbey

Storm sewage has been discharged from a sewer overflow in this location within the past 48 hours.

There is a sewer overflow in the urban catchment directly behind the beach that discharges into the Torre Abbey stream.

Teignmouth Town

Storm sewage has been discharged from a sewer overflow in this location within the past 48 hours.

A sewer overflow at the railway station discharges northeast of the beach.

Shaldon

Storm sewage has been discharged from a sewer overflow in this location within the past 48 hours.

Shaldon is located on the west side of the Teign estuary.

There is a sewer overflow on the other side of the estuary, some 220m away.

Teignmouth Holcombe

Storm sewage has been discharged from a sewer overflow in this location within the past 48 hours.

A sewer overflow discharges into the Holcombe Stream 40m upstream of the beach.

Dawlish Coryton Cove

Storm sewage has been discharged from a sewer overflow in this location within the past 48 hours.

A sewer overflow discharges over the rocks at the southern end of the beach.

Exmouth

Storm sewage has been discharged from a sewer overflow in this location within the past 48 hours.

There is a sewer overflow discharging through an outfall to the south east which may affect bathing water quality especially after heavy rainfall.

Budleigh Salterton

Storm sewage has been discharged from a sewer overflow in this location within the past 48 hours.

There are three sewer overflows in the area, one discharges directly onto the beach, another 400m east and another that discharges 1.3km away into the sea.