Monday, September 1, 2014

Chuka Takes Donation From Tax Avoidance Firm

Chuka Umunna has received a £2,500 donation from a firm which advises its clients on how to swerve HMRC rules to help them avoid tax. Signature Tax paid the sum two weeks ago, with the money “received through the Labour Party to support the office of Chuka Umunna”.

According to their website, Signature Tax specialise in “non-DOTAS tax schemes”, structures designed to avoid HMRC’s Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes regulations, which require those using tax avoidance schemes to inform the taxman. Accountancy Age explains how non-DOTAS schemes offered by Chuka’s donor bend the rules:

“Some of the (tax avoidance) promoters who used DOTAS numbers as tacit approval from HMRC initially, are now promoting schemes outside the DOTAS system. Some promoters are looking hard at their product lines and designing versions that escape the rules. Those rules have become so prescriptive, advisers say, that the longer they become, the easier they are to find holes in. For example, class action group Rebus claims to know of at least two promoters looking for non-DOTAS versions of old products.”

Signature Tax’s website also offers advice on “off shore” tax arrangements. Chuka has been a staunch opponent of such schemes, famously grilling former Barclay’s boss Bob Diamond over his bank’s offshore subsidiaries and urging him to close them down.

And who can forget when he called “on the chancellor to close in on tax avoidance, close in on tax loopholes and deliver greater tax justice.” Adding that: “It is time to close in on tax avoiders, recoup public money and ensure everyone in society pays their fair share.”

In light of this new information about his donor, will Chuka give the money back to avoid any allegations of massive hypocrisy?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

MacShame Uses Rotherham Scandal to Plug New Book

Rotherham’s former Labour MP has broken his silence on the child abuse scandal, from the comfort of the Dordogne:

Or you could just read the 160 page report which covers the time Denis was the local Labour MP and seemingly oblivious to what was happening on his patch and the failings of his friends and allies on the local Labour council.

Far more insightful, and free.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Gravy Train Stops at No. 10 for Transport Super Salary
No. 10’s Head of News Heads to Siberia

Three weeks ago Guido reported:

“DfT are offering a budget-busting £770-a-day to their new Director of Communications, which, if he or she works 240 days a year, puts the successful applicant on £184,800. Making them considerably better paid than the Secretary of State. Talk about jumping on the high-speed gravy train…”

Well all aboard for Scot Marchbank, one time Deputy Spokesman to the PM and latterly N0. 10’s Head of News. It’s one heck of a promotion in cash terms and into the Whitehall wilderness in terms of power. Guido is suspicious of the timing. Jumped, or pushed? You choo-choose.

‘Canberra Caterer’ Missed Catering Scandal on Her Watch
Expensive Scandals on CV of Potential Commons Chief Exec

The limited defenders of Carol Mills, who go under the name ‘friends of Bercow’ in the press, point to her experience running the Department for Parliamentary Services of the Australian parliament, as well as the enormity of the ‘Chief Executive’ role of the Common’s clerk – who essentially runs the parliamentary estate. Leaving aside allegations of spying on both politicians and hacks alike, apparently Mills would make an excellent Chief Executive if the role was split. Yet, does her track record really back up that claim?

In February of this year Mills was forced to admit that the DPS had missed an ongoing catering fraud. She told a Senate hearing it “was likely” that “inappropriate practice” had been going on for two years through a $550,000-a-year contract. It was found that W Catering had been using parliamentary facilities to cater for other events they were running, outside of parliament. There was political consternation over the fact that instead of calling in the cops, Mills took the decision to bring in “an external organisation look at all the material that I could find in terms of the accounts, the proceedings, etc.” At a cost to the taxpayer, natch.

Nor was this the first time that Mills had reached for the expensive outside consultants instead of dealing with matters through traditional internal channels and the law. Back in 2012, after a major security breach on her watch that saw an intruder enter the Parliament and get within touching distance of the Aussie PM, Mills shifted the blame by commissioning a $30,000 report by an external bureaucrat. Again, it turned out to be a matter for the police to deal with, but not before the money was wasted. 

Missed fraud scandals and security breaches don’t look great on Mills’ CV, but how she ultimately dealt with these problems – expensively – will really irritate MPs. Lots to discuss at a pre-selection hearing…

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Government Front Group Hires Lobbyist to Lobby Government

Save the Children is an organisation that gets 53% of its money from the government. You probably think of it is as a charity, yet it’s funding structure looks more like a quango that does a little fundraising on the side.

The group, that is dependent on handouts from the government, is looking to recruit somebody with a lavish salary and pension to lobby the same very government.

Round and round the money goes…

Homer’s Odyssey

As the government try to blame Labour and Labour forget they were ever in government, one element of the £224 million Raytheon row is the role of Lin Homer. As regular readers will remember, this is just the latest in a string of successes for the £180,000 a year civil servant, who first hit the headlines in Birmingham with electoral practices “that would disgrace a banana republic.” Then on to positions running immigration where her “catastrophic leadership failure” resulted in a £20,000 performance bonus and a move to Transport. There a disastrous franchise letting process, that cost taxpayers £100 million, qualified her for the biggest executive job in the civil service – collecting the nation’s taxes as head of HMRC. Last year her response to a critical PAC report was described as “woefully inadequate”. Keith Vaz says he will be haul Homer in front of his committee to ask how and “why she sanctioned such a defective agreement”. The warning signs were there…

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tricycle Theatre Indirectly Funding Pro-Israeli Hawks

London’s Tricycle Theatre was accused of anti-Semitism last week after it banned Britain’s annual Jewish Film Festival because the organisers had refused its demands to return a donation from the Israeli embassy. Awkwardly for the anti-Israel Tricycle, as of today they are themselves indirectly funding a staunchly pro-Israeli organisation which is campaigning in support of the IDF’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. Money from Tricycle paid to the Jewish Chronicle for a weekly advert is to be donated by the paper to the Friends of Israel Initiative, a hawkish charity described to Guido by one source as the “bomb the f**k out of the enemy lobby”. JC editor Stephen Pollard says: “The Tricycle’s board will no doubt be delighted to know that its money will now be going, weekly via the JC, to support that important objective.” Top trolling.

Burnham ‘Owes’ Tax Efficient Lobbyist Aide £20,000

The Times and Mail are on the case of Andy Burnham’s health lobbyist aide Kevin Lee over his tax arrangements, a story Guido broke over two years ago. Readers will remember how back in 2011 this blog revealed how Lee was being paid as Burnham’s spinner not on a normal PAYE contract, but through his company, Lee Communications. Since Labour advisers are paid for by taxpayer-funded ‘Short Money’, this seems particularly creative. And the murkiness doesn’t end there.

When Burnham was Health Secretary, Lee Communications raked in hundreds of thousands of pounds in NHS cash, which is somewhat ironic given Burnham’s apocalyptic warnings about the Tories privatising the health service. Lee also splashed himself all over the internet boasting about his connections with Burnham and his expertise in public affairs. He was a health lobbyist with NHS clients.

As if Burnham employing Lee’s company and giving him a parliamentary pass permitting a health lobbyist access to parliament was not suspicious enough, Lee also “loaned” £20,000 to Burnham’s failed leadership campaign. Burnham has never managed to explain why he gave a lobbyist donor unfettered access to the parliamentary estate. As for that £20,000 loan, did Burnham ever pay it back? Let’s see if he can clear it up once and for all two years on…

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tories Thrash Labour in Donation Stakes: Q2 Figures in Full

Electoral Commission figures out this morning show the Tories are amassing a decent pre-election war chest, raking in £7,185,709 in donations in Q2 of 2014. That’s almost double Labour, who banked just £3,761,615 by comparison. The biggest single donation was given to UKIP, £1,079,567 from Paul Sykes’ Highstone Group.

Those posters don’t pay for themselves…

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Crook Who Took Looks to Get Off Hook While Plugging Book

Jailed expenses cheat Denis MacShane couldn’t stop himself from trying to weasel out of admitting he thieved from the taxpayer as he plugged his book on Channel 4 News last night. “I have no problems at all with what happened to me,” he began, before trying to convince viewers that actually he had been terribly hard done by and didn’t deserve to spend Christmas in the clink. Quelle surprise.

“I claimed money back, all of it expended. Unlike some of my other former colleagues there isn’t a single bit of personal profit for me. As several prisoners said to me, ‘You’re the only guy who’s in here from parliament who didn’t make any money’. But I’m not complaining about it, I’m really not.” 

Of course you’re not, Denis.

Asked repeatedly by Cathy Newman if he accepted he stole from the taxpayer, MacShane refused to show remorse: “No, I was reimbursed for money expended, alright, you can trundle around this as much as you like.” Worth watching the interview just to see MacShame’s face when Cathy reads his charge sheet to him…

Vid via @liarpoliticians.

Seen Elsewhere

Labour Beats UKIP in South Yorkshire | LabourList
Mock the Week’s Weak Comedy | Nigel Farage
Can Jim Murphy Save Scottish Labour? | Guardian
There is Still Appetite for the Westminster Lunch | Jon Craig
Labour Turn Their Backs on Jewish Community | Dan Hodges
Chivalry is Not Dead | Laura Perrins
Jonathan Jones is a Tw*t | Iain Dale
Second Scotland Poll Suggests Labour Wipeout | Times
Paedo Probe Boss Urged to Quit | Sun
Keynesian Tories Won’t Eliminate Deficit | Tim Montgomerie
Whitehall Doesn’t Work | Dom Cummings


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