“Boris Johnson paid £123,000 for delivering three-hour speech in Delhi, register reveals – live news”

“Wow! Latest register of MPs’ interests shows Boris Johnson earned – *opens calculator* – £161,149 (and 74p) for just TWO speeches last month, one in London and one in Delhi.”

Nice work if you can get it … second speech in the UK paid somewhat less!

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/blog/live/2019/apr/25/brexit-latest-news-developments-theresa-may-told-tory-mps-expect-her-to-resign-before-end-of-year-as-possible-new-brexit-vote-planned-for-next-week-live-news

Tory candidates suspended for ‘liking’ racist and inflammatory posts

” … Two Conservative local election candidates and a woman honoured with an MBE are among 40 new self-professed Tory members who have shared or endorsed racist and inflammatory Facebook posts including Islamophobic material, the Guardian has learned.

The torrent of racist posts include references to Muslims as “bin bag wearing individuals”, calls for the “cult” of Islam to be banned and the Qur’an being branded an “evil book”.

One female Tory supporter even called for a boycott of Muslim-owned shops and endorsed another comment labelling the religion’s followers “sub-human” and “cockroaches”.

Both of the council candidates – one of them claimed “Islamophobia was not surprising” in a rant about Muslims and said he would celebrate the death of the anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller – have now been suspended.

It comes as the Conservative party faces mounting pressure over its handling of Islamophobia. The Conservative peer Sayeeda Warsi has said Theresa May is “burying her head in the sand” over the issue and has led calls for a party inquiry.

Mohammed Amin, chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, is also calling for party chiefs to hold an inquiry into Islamophobia. He told the Guardian: “The serious question the Conservative party has to ask itself is: what is it about the image that it is projecting that causes people with these views to think they belong in the Conservative party? …

… The posts have been unearthed by the anonymous Twitter account @matesjacob, who has been exposing racism online among Tories. Online posts have indicated all of the members have joined the Conservatives. Among the tranche of material are posts shared or endorsed by two Conservative candidates in next month’s elections. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/apr/25/tory-candidates-suspended-over-racist-and-inflammatory-posts

“Tories resisting efforts to allow scrutiny of secretive trusts, says Labour”

“The UK government has been accused of thwarting Europe-wide efforts to combat money laundering and terrorism by resisting measures to open secretive trusts to public scrutiny.

Under Europe’s fifth anti-money laundering directive, which comes into force next year, member states are supposed to give those with a “legitimate interest” a right to know what assets are owned by trusts and who the beneficiaries are. The Treasury is currently consulting on how it will implement the directive.

Labour says the government’s proposals, published this month, are “extremely restrictive” and will block enquiries by those who should have access to the data, such as journalists, campaigners and the victims of fraud.

Shadow Treasury minister Anneliese Dodds wrote to Philip Hammond on Thursday to urge a rethink. “Investigative journalists have done great work uncovering corruption,” she told the chancellor. “The UK government should not be blocking them from accessing important information.”

In the UK, vast tracts of land and property are controlled and passed from one generation to another using thousands of family trusts. They are used by the biggest landowning families, such as the Duke of Westminster, and by a number of current and former ministers to hold family fortunes. Investigations like the Laundromat series and the Panama Papers have revealed how such vehicles are also used to move and disguise fortunes derived from crime and the proceeds of political corruption.

Trusts are a favoured money-laundering tool because of the secrecy that surrounds them. There is currently no public register listing the names, beneficiaries or holdings of any UK trusts, but the new EU directive is designed to change this.

The tax office currently keeps a register of all trusts that pay UK tax. The new directive means that register will be expanded to cover all trusts, whether they pay tax or not. It will include those with UK resident beneficiaries, settlors or trustees, and foreign trusts that own property in the UK or have business dealings here.

The information will be accessible to law enforcement, to professionals with a duty to make money-laundering checks, such as lawyers, accountants and estate agents, but also, for the first time, to members of the public with a good reason for accessing the information.

However, the government’s consultation paper makes it clear that the Treasury is minded to take a cautious approach to information sharing. Those wanting access will need to already have evidence from another source linking the trust or its beneficiary to money-laundering or terrorism, and that evidence will have to be shared with the government.

Even then, the government reserves the right to refuse to share data if it impedes ongoing law enforcement investigations. Unlike freedom of information requests, the government intends to charge for access to the data. Its consultation paper suggests the charges could be significant, stating: “The government expects to apply fees proportionate to the costs involved in checking and compiling the information.” …”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/apr/25/tories-resisting-efforts-to-allow-scrutiny-of-secretive-trusts-says-labour

“£1.25m of taxpayers’ money spent guarding an EMPTY prison”

TAXPAYERS have footed a whopping £1.25million bill on the running of a prison which has no prisoners.

HM Prison Reading was closed in 2013 and the huge complex has stood empty ever since.

And in the six years since the site was shut, the Ministry of Justice still hasn’t managed to find a new purpose for it, racking up costs to the public purse.

The upkeep on the giant jail has cost Brits an eye-watering average of £24,000 a month since it closed its doors in November 2013.

SECURITY COSTS

Between April 2017 and March 2018 alone, a staggering £303,727 was spent on “security” for the empty cells.

And another £177,236 has been splurged on gas and electricity to keep the complex lit and warm since its closure, despite the lack of inmates.

The figures come after a report found the UK has the highest prison population in western Europe with some 90,000 citizens behind bars.

The vast Grade II listed building was opened in 1844 and has housed several famous inmates over the years, including Oscar Wilde and current heavyweight world champion, Anthony Joshua.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Decommissioning work and upkeep is necessary to make sure the site is suitable to be sold.

“Parts of the former prison are listed and need to be protected, so preparing for sale is complex. These costs include ongoing security and maintenance.

“Money raised from the sale of the building will be reinvested into the prison system.”

It is not clear when the prison will be sold on but Richard Carling from the Prison Estate Transformation Programme said it was hoped that an announcement would be made later this year.

PRISON CRISIS

A recent report from the justice select committee slammed the “enduring crisis” with the UK prison system’s failure to cope with prisoner numbers.

It said: “Whilst progress made on the Prison Estates Transformation Programme is welcome, the new-for-old strategy is not working as intended.

“Sites for new prisons have proven difficult to obtain, older and decrepit prisons have been forced to remain open owing to population pressures and receipts from the sale of existing sites do not cover the cost of building new prisons.”

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/8934914/millions-spent-guarding-empty-prison-reading/

“Scrap Pensioner ‘Perks’ And Spend More Cash On Young People, House Of Lords Committee Urges”

“Pensioner ‘perks’ such as free bus passes, TV licences and inflation-busting pensions should be scrapped and more money spent on young people instead, a new parliamentary report has urged.

The House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness called for stronger worker rights for those in the ‘gig’ economy and new policies to create more affordable homes for sale and for rent.

Age impacts of all government policies, including a regular assessment in the Budget, should also be introduced in a bid to end the growing gaps in income between the young and old, the peers said.

The committee – whose members have an average age of 66 – warned that “mutual support and affection” between the generations had been “undermined” by years of unfairness on basic tax and benefits and housing and other public services.

Among the key recommendations in its report are:

ending the ‘triple lock’ on pensions, phasing out free TV licences based on age and restricting winter fuel payments and free bus passes to only five years after retirement age.

wealthier pensioners who keep on working past 65 should pay national insurance, ending the tax-free perk they currently receive.
a massive increase in affordable housing, as well as a radical new system of rent regulation

a default assumption of employment status of ‘worker’ to protect young people from exploitation in the ‘gig’ economy

a substantial increase in vocational and further education spending, plus Intergenerational Impact Assessments for all draft legislation

Committee chairman Lord True said that young and older people have strong bonds because they recognise the contribution the other makes and the challenges they face.

“However, there is a risk that those connections could be undermined if the government does not get a grip on key issues such as access to housing, secure employment and fairness in tax and benefits.

“We are calling for some of the outdated benefits based purely on age to be removed. Policies such as the state pension triple lock and free TV licences for over-75s were justified when pensioner households were at the bottom of the income scale but that is no longer the case.

“Young people told us they feel short changed by the housing market, so we are recommending policies to deliver a significant increase in the supply of social and private housing and recommend protections to give renters long term security be backed a new regulatory framework.”

Frank Field, who chairs the Commons work and pensions committee, said: “The committee has hit the bull’s eye. The injustices in both the housing and labour markets have served to torpedo younger people’s living standards in recent years.

“Will the government now seize this report and use it to forge a new contract with younger people?”

The Association of Colleges said: “The cuts to the education system have had big implications over the last decade. Many young people are leaving education without the qualifications needed to get on in life. Some of the ones who are gaining degree qualifications are often finding themselves in low-skilled jobs.”

But Anna Dixon, of the Centre for Better Ageing, said: “Headline grabbing proposals like abolishing free TV licenses based on age risk distracting from the big structural changes needed across housing, work and communities.”

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/scrap-pensioner-perks-and-spend-more-cash-on-young-people-house-of-lords-committee-urges_uk_5cc0c597e4b0764d31dc3aa5

6 days to local elections – today’s picture

This:

Credit: Standing up for Milton Keynes

reminded Owl of this article about ex-EDDC ex-councillor Graham Brown (the video included in the clip is well worth watching!).

The article made the front page of the Daily Telegraph with the headline:

” ‘If I can’t get planning nobody will’ says [EDDC] Devon councillor and planning consultant.”

and includes the priceless recorded comment:

I don’t come cheap,” the planning consultant added, stating that he was normally paid £80 an hour or between £1000 and £20,000 for a project.
His fees would vary “depending on the viability of the scheme, if we get it, like if I turned a greenfield into a housing estate and I’m earning a developer two or three million, then I ain’t doing it for peanuts… Especially if I’m the difference between winning it and losing it.

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