“Home builders’ lobbyist pushed council leader to ‘sort’ and speed planning”

Is this any different to having a (Tory) COUNCILLOR in charge of planning running his own planning consultancy AND chairing an influential business forum? And if this expose came about from a Freedom of I formation request about events in Wandsworth in 2011 and 2013 …..

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9920971/If-I-cant-get-planning-nobody-will-says-Devon-councillor-and-planning-consultant.html

“A lobbyist for some of the UK’s biggest property developers used a direct communication channel to the leader of a flagship Conservative council to help push through planning applications for luxury apartment developments.

Peter Bingle used his longstanding relationship with Ravi Govindia, the leader of the London borough of Wandsworth, in attempts to circumvent council officials he believed were being obstructive to his clients, including over the size of payments due to public projects.

Bingle’s access has been revealed in a cache of emails released under the Freedom of Information Act that show him asking Govindia, a former flatmate, to smooth the passage of planning applications for hundreds of luxury homes between 2011 and 2013. Govindia responded in some cases by promising to chase officials and fix meetings.

Berkeley calls affordable housing targets ‘unviable’ as chairman earns £174m

Bingle is a former Conservative councillor at Wandsworth and was chairman of Bell Pottinger Public Affairs, once one of the country’s biggest lobbying firms. He set up Terrapin Communications, whose clients have included Ballymore and Bellway, the housebuilders, and Royal Mail when it was selling off its land for housing.

When Royal Mail complained about the junior rank of the planning officer assigned to its application and having to repeat details of its plans to officials, Bingle emailed Govindia: “This wouldn’t have happened under the old regime. Your help would be appreciated in sorting things out.”

Bingle later forwarded the Royal Mail’s plan for its presentation to the Wandsworth planning committee to Govindia asking “What’s your advice?” Govindia replied two minutes later: “Will call as soon as I finish this meeting”.

Nearly 100 London councillors have links to property industry

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing, but the correspondence provides a rare window on the methods developers use to apply pressure to politicians behind the scenes to speed up high-stakes planning decisions and to reduce infrastructure payments. An investigation last week revealed how Berkeley Homes, one of London’s largest developers of luxury homes, routinely told local authorities that their affordable housing targets were unviable.

In April, the Guardian revealed planning lobbyists regularly entertained Robert Davis, Westminster city council’s former planning committee chairman. Davis received hospitality or gifts 893 times over six years, frequently from developers and their agents, including Bingle. He has since resigned as deputy leader.

The emails relate to when Bingle was working as a lobbyist for the Royal Mail, which had submitted plans for a 1,800-home development on its site close to Battersea Power Station. In one email to Govindia he lambasted the council’s handling of a negotiation about how much his client should pay to the public purse as “chaotic and shambolic”. He told Govindia it “does nothing for Wandsworth’s reputation in the property world … Something has gone seriously wrong.”

The planning application was eventually approved. Royal Mail last year sold part of the site to US investors for £101m.

Bingle chased Govindia for updates on progress of another 252-home application at Battersea for another client, complaining about “non-committal” planning officials. He applauded the leader when a separate application for 104 private flats in Putney by Berkeley Homes was approved, signing off an email: “Many thanks for a great result.” It had no social housing.

Bingle has denied exerting any undue influence and Govindia said he made no apology for delivering more homes for Wandsworth.

Public records show Bingle has entertained at least 31 councillors in different London boroughs in recent years, taking some out for lunch or dinner more than a dozen times. When Govindia, who was among those he entertained, was awarded a CBE in 2017 Bingle said: “Never has an award for services to local government been more deserved.”

Govindia did not sit on Wandsworth’s planning committee, but Bingle repeatedly urged him to help, often simply forwarding on complaints from property developers.

In January 2012, Royal Mail was concerned about what the council wanted in terms of payments for schools and education. Bingle forwarded an email about that directly to Govindia saying “Ravi, Views?”

Govindia replied later that day: “I will chase the education chaps”.

By March, the development consultant on the scheme asked Bingle to “prod Ravi that we need to get on with this”. Bingle forwarded the email to Govinidia saying “I thought it simplest just to forward this to you”.

When Bingle sent an email asking: “Leader, Can we get a meeting with you in the diary for next week? This scheme is now stuck,” Govinida replied: “I have asked for an update from planners next week.”

Asked about the relationship Bingle said: “The fact that this information came from a freedom of information request shows that it was always available for scrutiny in the public domain. And rightly so. Having been a long-standing friend of Ravi I know it is impossible for anybody to have undue influence over him. Since his earliest days on Wandsworth as a backbench councillor he has always resolutely defended his own viewpoint even if it meant voting against the Conservative group.”

Govinidia said: “It is first and foremost the job of any council leader to press those on all sides to deliver improvements to their borough and improve the lives of their residents. To do the job effectively you need to listen to all voices and make sure that when problems or snags arise that you are on top of them and that you can secure solutions to drive forward and deliver these improvements. I make no apology whatsoever for fulfilling my role as a council leader to deliver more homes, more jobs and more opportunities for our residents.”

He said the Royal Mail development will deliver 318 new affordable homes, a higher number than the developers were originally offering.”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/sep/13/home-builders-lobbyist-pushed-council-leader-to-sort-and-speed-planning

“DUP fined £1,000 over ‘inaccurate’ loan reporting”

Owl says: remarkable how this article gives no details of EXACTLY what the DUP did wrong, how much money was involved and borrowed from whom, for how long and at what rate of interest! Transparency my …..!

“THE DUP has been fined £1,000 by the Electoral Commission for “inaccurate” loan reporting.

The watchdog imposed two fines worth £500 each, which were paid earlier this month, its latest report disclosed.

In a statement it said: “The Commission considered, in accordance with the enforcement policy, that sanctions were appropriate in this case.”

Ann Watt, head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland, added: “The reporting requirements are clear, so it is always disappointing when parties fail to comply.

“It’s vital that voters are given an opportunity to see accurate and full reportable data on what parties spend money on in order to influence them at elections and referendums.

“This provides transparency in the political finance system and is open for anyone to scrutinise.

“The Commission will continue to enforce these requirements on all parties and campaigners to ensure voters have the information they need.”

The Traditional Unionist Voice was also fined £1,000 for late delivery of a spending return for last year’s general election. The fine was due to be paid earlier this month.”

http://www.irishnews.com/news/politicalnews/2018/08/21/news/dup-fined-1-000-over-inaccurate-loan-reporting-1412808/

Evo-North: 11 business-led Local Enterprise Partnerships unite to hijack funding formerly controlled by local authorities

Coming soon to a group of Local Enterprise Partnerships on your doorstep.

On 9 July 2018 it was announced that 11 Northern Local Enterprise Partnerships would join together as “Evo-North”:

“Christine Gaskell, chair of the Cheshire and Warrington LEP and vice-chair of NP11, said: “To translate the Northern Powerhouse concept into increasing impact requires new types of conversations across the region and at the heart of this collaboration are common goals which transcend local interests.”

Gaskell noted that the The NP11 will serve as a “strong coherent regional voice” with national government about the potential of an innovation-led economy for the North.”

http://www.publicsectorexecutive.com/Public-Sector-News/council-for-the-north-on-the-way-aimed-at-aligning-businesses-for-northern-powerhouse?dm_i=4WAR,1AG5,WEIUK,3PBB,1

Now we see the full take-over of former local authority funding by this new business-led UNELECTED group as a press release publicising one of its forthcoming events makes clear:

“Following last month’s announcement from Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry that 11 LEPs will form the government-funded body ‘NP11’ to act as a modern-day ‘Council for the North’, last week, a cross-party group of MPs called for £100bn investment to transform the north of England’s transport by 2050 and for the date of Northern Powerhouse Rail to be brought forward to 2032.

This makes EvoNorth the perfect opportunity to put your products and services in front of the budget-holders who are actively seeking them. You get the opportunity to ask questions and network with the people responsible for delivering the Northern Powerhouse by attending this exclusive event. You can benefit from branding and exhibition opportunities by contacting the events team on 0161 833 6320, and you can also submit an enquiry or click here to contact us by email.

EvoNorth is an important event and platform where the Northern Powerhouse is discussed and debated across a wide range of topics including skills, employment & apprenticeships; digital revolution and innovation; health and social care; wellbeing & fulfilment; and infrastructure, business and inward investment.

It stands out from the crowd with its immersive series of lively and engaging Q&As, roundtable discussions, workshops and exhibitions. You can be a part of this exciting opportunity by attending, exhibiting or sponsoring: just contact the events team on 0161 833 6320, submit an enquiry or click here to contact us by email.”

https://cognitivepublishing.co.uk/4WAR-1AG5-B6WEIUK95/cr.aspx

So, very, very soon our district, our county and our region will almost certainly be in the grip of these unelected business people who have already shown their conflicts of interest countless times.

And we can do nothing to stop them …. unless the Conservative government which has enthusiastically x nay zealously – driven this initiative is removed from power.

“Parish and town councils overwhelmingly support single code of conduct”

“Some 90% of parish and town councils surveyed would support a single, mandatory code of conduct, research by the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) has revealed.

The NALC survey also found that nearly 70% of local councils would like new powers to impose additional sanctions.

“At the moment sanctions used by local councils include apologies and training. However, around 60% of local councils believe these are neither sufficient to punish breaches of the code of conduct or deter future breaches,” the association said.

Almost 40% of local councils meanwhile stated that their members had not received any training and 20% reported that most members did not understand the rules around declaring interests.

Cllr Sue Baxter, chairman of NALC, said: “NALC does not believe the current ethical standards arrangements are working as well as they could and a review of the regime is something we have long called for. We would like to see stronger sanctions available to local councils, including the power of suspension and disqualification.

“In light of our research, we are also asking the government to invest £2m towards a national training programme that would see all new councillors undertake training on ethical standards and the code of conduct as part of their induction.”

The research comes as the Committee on Standards in Public Life is conducting a review into local government ethical standards. The committee is due to report to the Prime Minister by the end of the year.”

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=36290%3Aparish-and-town-councils-overwhelmingly-support-single-code-of-conduct-nalc&catid=59&Itemid=27

Top lawyers argue tax avoidance laws cause privacy problem for their rich client!

“The law firm Mishcon de Reya has filed a legal complaint against new anti-tax evasion measures, arguing that they infringe privacy and data protection rights.

The Information Commissioner’s Office confirmed it had received a complaint against HMRC and the Common Reporting Standard, a system whereby different countries’ tax authorities automatically exchange information.

The complaint was filed on behalf of an unnamed EU citizen who did not wish to be identified, according to the Financial Times. The woman is domiciled in Italy, meaning she argues it is her home for tax purposes.

It is not known where she is currently resident, though she was reported to have been previously resident in the UK and to have had a UK bank account containing £4,000.

The complaint claims that sharing her information with overseas tax authorities would subject her to a risk of her data being hacked, and would infringe European data protection and human rights laws. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/aug/02/mishcon-de-reya-complains-about-anti-tax-evasion-measures

“Jacob Rees-Mogg firm advising top Canada marijuana market investor”

“Jacob Rees-Mogg’s investment firm is advising one of the highest-profile investors in Canada’s marijuana market.

Somerset Capital Management, co-founded by the prominent Brexiter MP, is an adviser to an emerging markets fund established by Purpose Investments.

Purpose Investments has emerged this year as one of the most prominent investors in the Canadian cannabis market. The drug will become legal for recreational use there in October, but it has been legal for medical use since 2001.

Rees-Mogg, chair of the pro-Brexit European Research Group, has refused to back either the decriminalisation or legalisation of cannabis in the UK.

The development comes days after it emerged that Somerset set up a second fund in Ireland after it warned earlier this year about the financial dangers of the sort of hard Brexit favoured by the Conservative MP.

Documents show that Somerset Capital Management is an adviser to the Purpose Emerging Markets Dividend Fund, which invests in sectors including financials, IT and mutual funds in countries such as South Korea, Russia, China and Turkey. The fund does not include investments in the marijuana market.

With legalisation in Canada due in the autumn, funds across North America are looking to cash in.

In January, it was reported that Purpose’s subsidiary Redwood Asset Management had set up Canada’s first actively managed marijuana-themed exchange-traded fund. According to the Purpose website, the Purpose Marijuana Opportunities Fund is close to fully invested.

Rees-Mogg, the MP for North East Somerset, said in an interview last year that he would not be in favour of the legalisation or decriminalisation of cannabis. “With the [cannabis] laws as they currently are, you provide a certain amount of protection for people.

“If you have a system of protection which is saving people you are right to keep the ban in place. The onus of proof is on those who wish to change the law and I don’t think they have managed to establish that the extra risk is worth taking,” he said.

A spokesman for Somerset Capital Management confirmed that it advises an account on behalf of Redwood.

Rees-Mogg has been contacted for comment. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/31/jacob-rees-mogg-firm-advising-top-canada-marijuana-market-investor