“Westminster councillor received gifts and hospitality 514 times in three years”

Surely not the only one. So many councillors in Devon accept such hospitality …..particularly at sporting events …..

Full list of this councillor’s freebies here:
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/19/full-list-of-westminster-councillor-robert-daviss-514-freebies

“Westminster city council’s deputy leader has emerged as a contender for the title of the most schmoozed politician in Britain, receiving entertainment, meals and gifts more than 500 times in the last three years.

From tickets to the hottest West End shows to exclusive dinners in London’s finest restaurants and trips to the south of France, the official declarations reveal an extraordinary lifestyle that included one day in Mallorca, when Robert Davis managed two lunches, the first at the home of Andrew Lloyd Webber and the second at the home of the Earl of Chichester.

Davis, the Conservative deputy leader of the central London borough and until last year the chairman of its powerful planning committee, was entertained by and received gifts from property industry figures at least 150 times since the start of 2015 – a rate of almost once a week.

His entertainment was paid for by some of the country’s wealthiest property developers including Gerald Ronson, Sir Stuart Lipton and Sir George Iacobescu, the chief executive of Canary Wharf Group.

The Cambridge-educated solicitor was entertained or received gifts on 514 occasions since the start of 2015, suggesting he received benefits worth at least £13,000 although then overall total is likely to be several times higher.

Councillors must declare gifts and hospitality worth £25 or more, but some of the hospitality would have been worth much more. For example, property developers twice flew Davis to the south of France and put him up for four-day stays.

He was also gifted a ticket to the musical Hamilton by the impresario Cameron Mackintosh, which can cost as much as £250. Steaks at the M steakhouse, where he dined 20 times at others’ expense cost up to £100 each. Other property figures treated him to lunch at exclusive restaurants including Sexy Fish, Scott’s, the Colony Grill Room, the Ritz and the Ivy.

Davis was entertained 15 times at the expense of the Westminster Property Association, which represents major developers, including an expenses-paid trip to the south of France and dinners at the Grosvenor House and Goring Hotels in London.

Labour said the extent of Davis’s register of interests was evidence of a “broken culture at Westminster council” and said there was a “clear perception that senior Conservative councillors have a very close relationships with developers”. It has accused the council of letting developers get away with building far fewer “affordable” homes than required under Westminster’s planning policy.

Between 2013 and 2016 only 12% of the new homes built in Westminster were classed as “affordable” while the target was 35%. Davis chaired the council’s planning committee, which approves deals with developers over how much affordable housing they must build as part of private developments, between 2000 and January 2017. …

… a spokesman for Westminster city council hit back saying: “The idea that any councillor has been ‘bought’ by the property lobby is demonstrably untrue.”

“Westminster is a target for investment for UK and national developers, so it is hardly surprising that the chair of planning for Westminster city council – the largest planning authority in the UK – undertakes a large number of meetings,” he said. “Where hospitality is offered, these meetings are all declared in the register of interests and have absolutely no sway on planning decisions.”

Davis added: “As planning chairman it was an important part of my job to meet groups ranging from developers to residents, property agents, heritage associations, arts groups and trade organisations. These meetings were all properly declared and open to anyone to examine. Their sole purpose was to ensure and encourage the right kind of development in Westminster and ensure that anything put before the council was going to benefit the city as a whole.”

The records show Davis also dined with several planning consultancy companies whose job it is to help their clients secure planning consent. When he was chairman of the planning committee he was given breakfast at the Carlton Club in St James by the consultancy Thorncliffe which boasts on its website: “We get clients planning committee approval.”

There is no suggestion that Davis breached any rules.

Davis’s declared entertainment dwarves that of the leaders of his own council and the neighbouring Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The current leader of Westminster, Nickie Aiken, has registered only nine instances of gifts or hospitality for the first half of 2017. Nick Paget-Brown, the leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea until the Grenfell tower disaster, recorded 43 instances since the start of 2015.

Hug said the extent of the entertainment Davis received during some periods was “ludicrous”.

On one day, while in Mallorca during August 2015, he registered two lunches: the first at the home of Madeleine Lloyd Webber, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s third wife, and the second at the home of the Earl of Chichester.

The property developers that entertained or gave gifts to Davis include: the Crown Estate (13 times), Clivedale Properties, Capco, Irvine Sellar, Derwent London, Berkeley Homes, British Land, Land Securities, Grosvenor Estates, Soho Estates, Dukelease. Architects included Zaha Hadid, Make, Terry Farrell, Michael Squire and John McAslan.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of Davis or any other named individual.

Davis was also gifted seats at 10 theatre shows at the expense of the impresario Cameron Mackintosh and a further 51 performances at venues including the Royal Opera House and the Regent’s Park open air theatre. In 2016 he was entertained at the expense of Harvey Weinstein at the after-party for the Bafta awards.

Since January he has been in charge of council policy on theatres and major public realm schemes.

Labour said that if elected to run Westminster council in May’s elections its councillors will not accept hospitality from individual developers or their agents.”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/19/westminster-councillor-received-gifts-and-hospitality-514-times-in-three-years

Another toothless tiger – a rented housing “watchdog”

Owl says: more money to be spent on another useless quango. Can you imagine the correspondence? Instead of a long-running battle with a landlord, it will be an everlasting problem with a taxpayer-funded quango, which could go something like this:

I live in a flat with no heating, my landlord refuses to fix it.
Rate your heating and explain your problem in as technical way as possible, on this 20 page form. (end of week 1)
I don’t have any heating, I can’t get more technical than that, I’m not a plumber or electrician.
We cannot process your complaint unless you fill in the form and have it certified by a plumber or electrician. (end of week 4)
(You fill in the form as best you can).
Sorry, you did not include information about the warranty and the plumber you engaged said he could not provide more information without a full inspection. (end of week 8)
I don’t have the warranty, my landlord has it and won’t let me see it, it’s my landlord’s responsibility to engage and pay for an inspection
Sorry, we can’t help you if you do not have a copy of the warranty and a copy of the inspection report from your landlord (end of week 12)
So what do I do now – I have no heating, I’ve paid for a plumber’s visit out of my own pocket and my landlord refuses to give me a copy of the warranty and refuses to call a plumber? (week 16]
Email: Thank you for using our service. Please rate our service on the attached questionnaire: was it
excellent,
brilliant or
outrageously, miraculously wonderful?

“HOUSEHOLDERS will soon be spared long-running battles with rogue landlords and builders to get their homes repaired.

A new watchdog will be appointed to adjudicate in disputes over damp walls, broken boilers and crumbling plasterwork.

The government appointed housing ombudsman will have sweeping powers to resolve disagreements between dissatisfied residents and landlords or builders.

He will also be encouraged to name and shame dodgy housing or repair providers.

It will be a lifeline for millions of tenants or home-owners locked in long-running rows over everything from outstanding repairs to cracks in new-build homes. …”

Housing Secretary Sajid Javid will today launch an eight-week consultation on the precise role of the new official.”

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5604478/new-housing-watchdog-to-be-set-up-to-deal-with-rogue-landlords-over-home-repairs/

“Poverty is now so visible that even the richest can see it”

Owl wonders how many will cough up for a guilt tax – most of these people didn’t get rich by helping the poor!

“Officially, it’s not a guilt tax. Westminster council prefers the term “community contribution” to describe the idea that its millionaire residents might like to make a voluntary donation on top of council tax. It is, they say, merely a chance for the wealthiest to “invest in their neighbourhood”. Perish the thought that they may have anything to feel guilty about.

But whatever you call it, attempting to appeal to the social consciences of the super-rich is surely a sign of changing times. That a flagship Tory council should be dabbling in new forms of redistribution is interesting in itself. That it began considering the idea a few months after the Grenfell Tower fire, which had some of Kensington’s more liberal-minded millionaires asking why their council hadn’t charged them more and housed their neighbours decently, is more interesting still, given that Westminster’s guilt money is earmarked partly for tackling homelessness….

The significance of the guilt tax is that, according to the council leader, Nickie Aiken, the idea came from wealthy residents themselves, who began asking last year if they could pay more. Most tellingly of all, she says it is most popular among those living in “the most expensive homes”, reversing the normal finding that tax rises are wildly popular only with people who won’t actually be paying them. This is starting to feel less like a conventional tax, and more like the biblical concept of guilt offerings: pay up, cleanse yourself of the perceived sin of unwittingly perpetuating gross wealth inequality, and perhaps you might avoid a plague of locusts.

… Relying on charitable donations, which could dry up overnight, to fund essential public services feels precarious and wrong. But the pragmatic attraction of a guilt tax is that, like the decision by the Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, to donate part of his salary to a homelessness fund, it is quick and achievable, and it beats wringing hands.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/17/poverty-visible-richest-grenfell-homelessness

Be rich, live long, be poor, live short

The fall in death rates of England’s richest and poorest aged between 60 and 89
Group Fall in death rates*
Richest men
32%
Poorest men
20%
Richest women
29%
Poorest women
11%
Source: The LSP *Death rates measure the likelihood of somebody within this age range dying.
The fall in death rates charts an improvement in life expectancy.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/consumer-affairs/ever-live-determines-long-live/

“Britain’s bus coverage hits 28-year low”

“Britain’s bus network has shrunk to levels last seen in the late 1980s, BBC analysis has revealed.

Rising car use and cuts to public funding are being blamed for a loss of 134 million miles of coverage over the past decade alone.

Some cut-off communities have taken to starting their own services, with Wales and north-west England hardest hit.

The government has encouraged councils and bus companies to work together to halt the decline.

One lobbying group fears the scale of the miles lost are a sign buses are on course to be cut to the same extent railways were in the 1960s.” …

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-42749973

Home ownership amongst the (non-wealthy) young has plummeted in 20 years

“New research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows how an explosion in house prices above income growth has increasingly robbed the younger generation of the ability to buy their own home. For 25- to 34-year-olds earning between £22,200 and £30,600 per year, home ownership fell to just 27% in 2016 from 65% two decades ago.

Middle income young adults born in the late 1980s are now no more likely than those lower down the pay scale to own their own home. Those born in the 1970s were almost as likely as their peers on higher wages to have bought their own home during young adulthood.

Andrew Hood, a senior research economist at the IFS, said: “Home ownership among young adults has collapsed over the past 20 years, particularly for those on middle incomes.”

The IFS said young adults from wealthy backgrounds are now significantly more likely than others to own their own home.

Between 2014 and 2017 roughly 30% of 25- to 34-year-olds whose parents were in lower-skilled jobs such as delivery drivers or sales assistants owned their own home, versus 43% for the children of those in higher-skilled jobs such as lawyers and teachers. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/feb/16/homeownership-among-young-adults-collapsed-institute-fiscal-studies