Persimmon in another rip-off scandal

See what Guardian Money had to say in answer to this query – truly shocking:

“I am about to complete on the purchase of a house on a new Charles Church development in Northiam, East Sussex.

My solicitor has identified an issue which negatively affects the value of seven of the properties. Because a certain form was never submitted to the Land Registry by the developer, each one has an “overage” on its deeds in favour of Charles Church.

This grants the company a proportion of any profit if the property is sold on and will have a huge impact on the resale value. The owners of properties already sold are none the wiser as no other conveyancer had picked up on it.

Charles Church’s solicitor has agreed that, with this overage in place, there is no way I could purchase the property. Nevertheless, Charles Church has given me two days to exchange and complete, or else it will remarket the property.”

Education – what is it for? The perils of a target/tick box culture – children as “collateral damage”

“An independent inquiry into a top grammar school, which was revealed by a Guardian investigation to be forcing out pupils who were unlikely to get top grades at A-level, has delivered a damning report accusing the school of illegally treating its students as “collateral damage” in the pursuit of its own interests.

The 150-page report into events last summer at St Olave’s, a selective boys school in Orpington, south-east London, called for a root and branch makeover at the school after a council investigation exposed multiple cases of maladministration and scenes of distressed pupils contemplating suicide after being pushed out of the school midway through the sixth form.

One member of staff told the inquiry that a student was so fearful of telling his parents that he could not continue at St Olave’s “that he might as well kill himself” while another on the phone to his parents said “they just want to be rid of me, they just want me gone”.

Other pupils in extremely vulnerable situations were told no exceptions could be made to the strict academic requirement of three Bs to progress into the final year of sixth form.

In one case a student who scored all As and A*s at GCSEs and was heading for medical school was refused any leniency despite being diagnosed with depression triggered by a family suicide.

The report, commissioned by Bromley council, challenged the pursuit of academic excellence at all costs. “A school has the responsibility to do its best by all of the pupils,” the report said, adding that by excluding students, the school had put the institution above the pupils.

“Parents of the pupils affected were right to say their children were being treated as collateral damage. It should not have happened.” …..

The investigation also criticised the school’s leadership for the claims of financial “doom and gloom” to justify cutting staff, cancelling courses and putting off urgent repairs. In fact, the school recorded annual surpluses and built up £2m in unrestricted funds in its bank accounts.

Parents were urged to donate £50 a month to the school by direct debit. The school also raised £35,000 a year in selling mock entrance tests to the families of applicants to the grammar school, and retained hardship funds for disadvantaged pupils, worth more than £50,000 that went unspent.”

Another summer, another sleazy Tory fundraising ball for toffs

“Millionaire Tory donors blew tens of thousands of pounds to secure luxury dinners with ministers, ­private hunting trips and a ride in Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Bentley during a ­lavish fundraiser.

Guests paid up to £1,500 a head for the annual Summer Party, held on Monday at London’s exclusive Hurlingham Club and hosted by PM Theresa May.

As her Cabinet teetered on the edge of implosion over Brexit, desperate ministers had to rattle the Tory donation tin.

Boris Johnson, David Davis, Michael Gove, Liz Truss and Gavin Williamson were seen “working the room”, getting rich supporters to part with their cash. …

And items up for auction included:

A ride in Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Bentley
Dinner cooked by Michael Gove, in his kitchen
University Challenge with David Lidington
Wine tasting with Brandon Lewis and Matthew Jukes
Own a David Cameron lectern
Dinner with Stephen Hammond
A museum tour with Boris Johnson
Regency weekend for 4 in Cheltenham
Night in Central Mayfair
Villa for 10 in Phuket
Week in Provence for 12
Namibia cheetah experience
Pheasant shooting in Leicester and quail hunting in Texas

“More than 100 managers join Persimmon’s bonus gravy train with a £300m windfall (and, yes, most of them are men)”

Not saying this is the same, but don’t a lot of companies take out money just before they crash …BHS, Carillion …

And is this a proper time?

“A group of 130 bosses at housebuilder Persimmon are set to share a £300 million bonus bonanza in the biggest windfall in the history of the industry.

The unprecedented payout is part of a notorious bonus scheme that is delivering £75 million to the chief executive Jeff Fairburn.

Tomorrow’s payday will hand 130 senior managers an average of £2.3 million each. The handout is the second and largest part of an incentive scheme, that will take the total for managers below the board level to £500 million.

They previously shared in a £200 million payout over Christmas which was overshadowed by the storm over Fairburn’s £50 million. …”

“Coalition education reforms ‘fuelled inequality in schools’ “

“Sweeping education reforms appear to be fuelling inequality in the schools system, according to a major analysis that shows high-performing and improving schools are accepting fewer children from poor backgrounds.

In a stark assessment of the impact of controversial measures introduced since 2010, the study warns that an original pledge to set schools free and give them more power has actually led to a system that is causing high levels of stress among teachers.

It finds the system is now pushing schools and their heads to prioritise “the interests of the school over the interests of groups of, usually more vulnerable, children”. Some schools were found to be engaged in “aggressive marketing campaigns and ‘cream skimming’ aimed at recruiting particular types of students”. …

… It warns that the system in which the involvement of councils has been stripped back, with fellow schools encouraged to help their struggling counterparts, is actually seeing the creation of a market for advice – with schools charging for their expertise on how to improve.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Thanks to our reforms and the hard work of teachers, the vast majority of pupils are in a good or outstanding school, 1.9 million more than in 2010, and an increase from 66% to 86% over that time.

“And thanks to our reforms schools that aren’t delivering for young people are being turned around, with 65 per cent of schools made into a sponsored academy seeing improvement from inadequate to good or outstanding. But there is always more to do, which is why we are investing £23bn by 2020 to create more good school places and we are targeting £72m at the areas that need it most to help improve prospects and opportunities for some of the most disadvantaged young people.”

The findings form part of a state-of-the-nation study of England’s education system, drawn up by academics at the UCL Institute of Education over four years, which will be published on Tuesday. It includes the examination of Ofsted data over a decade, a statistical analysis of the impact of multi-academy trusts (MATs), 47 detailed school case studies and a survey of almost 700 school leaders.

The reforms were largely implemented under the coalition government and championed by Michael Gove as education secretary. A plan to force all English schools to become academies was abandoned in 2016 after a backlash among Tory MPs.

The study concludes that any new autonomy handed to schools had been “more than balanced” by testing and inspections that had ensured the state remains in control from a distance. The drive to turn schools into academies, the key part of reforms since 2010, is described as “uneven and often fraught”.

“Company co-founded by Jeremy Hunt broke [tax] law”

A company co-founded by Jeremy Hunt breached company law before carrying out a restructuring designed to reduce the health secretary’s tax bill by about £100,000, it has emerged.

Hotcourses, which was at the time majority-owned by Hunt, failed to file crucial documents with Companies House for over three years, when the law says they must be filed within 15 days.

It was reported in 2012 that Hunt reduced his potential tax bill by around £100,000 by moving an office building out of the company before a change to the dividend rate.

The Hotcourses’ mistake is a further embarrassment for the health secretary, who recently had to apologise after being investigated by the standards commissioner for failing to report ownership of seven flats in Southampton through a company.

Hunt has admitted breaching money-laundering rules brought in by his government, having failed to declare his 50% interest in the property firm to Companies House.

Hunt’s accountant, Grunberg & Co, said their failure to file the documents was “regrettable” and an “administrative error”, but not Hunt’s error as at the time he was a shareholder and not a director. Hunt referred inquiries to his accountant.

As has been previously reported, Hunt and his business partner, Mike Elms, transferred an office building in 2010 worth £1.8m out of Hotcourses and into their own names. They then immediately started renting the building back to the company.

The two men had to pay dividend tax on this “dividend in specie”, which at the time was 32.5%.

The March 2010 transfer took place just before the tax rate for the transaction rose to 42.5% at the beginning of April 2010. By paying themselves the building as a dividend before the change in tax rules, the two men saved themselves an income tax bill of around £200,000 on the deal.

According to documents filed at Companies House, Hunt and other shareholders signed documents to vary the rules of the company in February 2010. However, it was not until May 2013 that the “articles of association” were sent to Companies House.

Hunt’s accountants said that the dividend in specie could have been paid under the old articles of association, so the tax position would not have been affected by the changes.

Hunt stopped being a director of Hotcourses in 2009 but remained the largest shareholder in the company. Grunberg said it was the responsibility of the directors to file the documents.

Hunt co-founded the educational listings company in 1990. In 2017, the company was sold for £30.1m to IDP Education, a Melbourne-based student placement company that co-owns the popular IELTS English language proficiency test. The sale netted Hunt around £14.5m, which made him one of the richest Conservative MPs. In the MPs’ register of interests, Hunt also declares a half-ownership of a house in Italy.

Hunt’s shares have been held in a blind trust since he became a cabinet minister in 2010.

Hotcourses runs a variety of education-search websites including Whatuni, Postgraduate Search and the Complete University Guide. It also operates sites under its own name.

Hunt, who recently became the longest serving health secretary in history, has said previously that the success of Hotcourses came only after he and Elms had pursued a string of failed ventures, including a scheme to export marmalade to Japan and building children’s playgrounds.