A review of 2017 – The meanderings of a Liberal Blogger

12 months in 12 blog postings – click on each link to read the posting

January – Loss of my dear friend ‘Uncle Albert’:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/01/11/goodbye-uncle-albert/

February – Not being the Tory Party:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/02/22/is-labour-just-an-alternative-tory-party-for-those-who-consider-themselves-to-be-working-class/

March – Developing land north of Maghull’s Turnbridge Road

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/03/24/lydiate-land-north-of-turnbridge-road-our-response-to-planning-application-for-34-dwellings/

April – Maghull’s parks, their maintenance and money

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/04/06/maghull-land-money-maintaining-old-hall-park/

May – Buying the Strand Shopping Centre in secretive deal

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/05/03/bootle-sefton-council-buys-back-the-strand-shopping-centre-for-how-much-thoughso-it-seems/

June – Bugger Moderation!

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/06/20/moderation-bugger-that-for-a-lark-im-too-angry-about-whats-happening-to-the-uk/

July – Youth Coffee Bar gone, CAB gone – Labour’s regressive policies!

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/07/29/maghull-youth-coffee-bar-gone-cab-gone-retired-bowlers-given-huge-price-hike-long-established-cricket-club-with-nowhere-to-play-just-whats-the-town-council-up-to/

August – Those who take land out of Green Belt then protest about its development!

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/08/19/maghulls-vast-urban-extension-labour-blasts-development-on-land-their-local-plan-identified-for-development-you-could-not-make-this-up/

September – Rimrose Valley Country Park and the Sefton Council’s part in it’s demise

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/09/30/rimrose-valley-what-does-sefton-council-want-and-that-could-well-be-a-very-different-answer-to-what-it-says-it-wants/

October – Police move into Maghull TH but at what a cost!

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/10/17/maghull-the-math-behind-the-police-station-move-to-maghull-town-hall/

November – Ex Southport MP John Pugh wins Sefton Council seat by an electoral landslide

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/11/03/southport-john-pugh-takes-55-of-votes-cast-to-win-dukes-ward-by-election/

December – Maghull North Station progress

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/12/19/maghull-north-station-construction-progress-over-4-months/

So another year comes to a close. Not a good one, indeed another poor one as the UK slips further into the Brexit mire or is that jumps over the Brexit cliff? Either way no good will come of it but a lot of bad most certainly will.

Personally I lost more good friends in 2017 which is always sad yet in looking back at my posting about ‘Uncle Albert’ I can only feel that whilst I lost him I gained so much from knowing him.

As for 2018 the omens are not good and they will remain poor so long as Jeremy Corbyn remains wedded to Teresa May’s Brexit.

Bootle – That purchase of The Strand shopping centre which Labour keep trying to brush under the Town Hall carpet

£684,000 cost (and rising) of Bootle Strand “advice”

As opposition Lib Dem councillors continue to dig into this murky matter further issues of concern continue to emerge. Cllr. Iain Brodie Browne has the latest on his blog site – Birkdale Focus – accessible via the link below

birkdalefocus.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/sefton-council-leader-should-come-clean.html

And the Liverpool Echo is running this story on its web site based on Iain’s investigations:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/sefton-council-paid-out-nearly-13940814

Despite The Times exposing what Sefton Council was up to just a few weeks back (see link below) it seems there are more carpets to be ripped up to get to all the facts about this odd and indeed worrying purchase of a shopping centre by cash strapped Sefton Council.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/11/09/sefton-council-so-was-it-avaioding-tax-or-not-when-buying-bootle-strand-shopping-centre/

Keep digging…………

Sefton Council hits the headlines for all the wrong reasons!

From The Times edition of 8th November

Labour-run councils in £12m tax avoidance

Labour councils are using offshore companies to avoid paying millions of pounds in tax, The Times can reveal.

Jeremy Corbyn was accused of hypocrisy yesterday after an investigation found that two authorities controlled by his party avoided paying more than £12 million in stamp duty on the purchase of commercial properties.

On Monday Mr Corbyn hinted that the Queen should apologise if the offshore investment of £10 million of her personal wealth — as revealed in the leaked Paradise Papers — was designed to avoid tax. Yet in May Sefton council in Merseyside bought the New Strand shopping centre in Bootle via a Luxembourg-registered company for £32.5 million, saving £1.6 million in stamp duty. The council also bought insurance against the possibility that the taxman might chase it for payment.

In July Warrington council agreed to pay more than £200 million for Birchwood Park, a business centre in Cheshire, via an offshore company, saving almost £10.5 million in stamp duty. By agreeing to the purchases, the councils may also have helped the sellers to avoid capital gains tax.

In June John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said that corporations were “morally obscene” for ducking out of obligations that “the rest of us fulfil”. Such action “corrodes the functioning of democracy”, he added.

An email seen by The Times from the Labour leader of Sefton council confirmed that the structure of its purchase of the Bootle shopping centre helped to avoid tax. It said: “It is true that one of the important considerations for purchasing the company rather than the asset is that the council would not have to pay stamp duty land tax. This is a widely accepted tax-efficient way of completing the purchase.”

In 2013 George Osborne introduced a levy to stop residential property being held in offshore companies, describing the practice as an abuse of the tax system. It was not extended to commercial property, however, leaving owners of business parks and shopping centres free to hold these assets in companies registered in low-tax jurisdictions, a structure that facilitates the avoidance of corporation and capital gains tax and stamp duty.

Sir Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said yesterday: “The Labour leadership has spoken loudly about stamping out tax avoidance yet Labour-run local authorities have avoided stamp duty through complicated tax structures when speculating in commercial property. The . . . stance appears somewhat hypocritical until they have their own house in order.”

Sefton council, which borrowed money from the Treasury to fund the purchase, declined last night to reveal how much it had paid its tax advisers on the transaction. One of the advisers is understood to be PWC, the accountancy firm that Labour has previously accused of “complicity in tax avoidance”.

There is no suggestion that the structure is illegal and yesterday the council insisted that it had not intended to avoid stamp duty. A spokesman said that the vendor was willing to sell only the holding company that owned the shopping centre rather than the shopping centre itself, giving it no choice but to avoid the tax. He added that it had unwound the offshore structure.

John Pugh, the former Lib Dem MP for Southport who is now a councillor at Sefton, said: “No one has to speculatively buy a shopping centre or take advantage of a tax loophole in doing so. For a Labour council to do so in considerable secrecy looks utterly hypocritical.”

In a letter to Warrington council Helen Jones, Labour MP for Warrington North, said that using an offshore structure was “morally questionable [and] contrary to Labour policy”. She wrote that Labour councillors believe the cash is “better in the borough’s pocket than the government’s” but no one should decide not to pay tax because they disliked the party in power.

Sefton council said: “We paid all the tax due and will continue to do so. The council bought the company that owned the asset as this was the corporate structure that was marketed for sale. We acquired the shopping centre primarily to deliver a new revenue stream to help pay for vital services that have been reduced as a result of government cuts. The purchase also supports regeneration in Bootle.”

Warrington council, which still holds Birchwood Park in an offshore company, said: “The only tax not being paid . . . is a one-off payment of stamp duty land tax. This position was discussed in detail and followed extensive due diligence and external advice to the council. To complete the acquisition in a timely manner the council agreed to leave the business offshore as trying to complete the deal and bring it onshore would have delayed the purchase.”

Labour said: “We’re committed to changing the current tax environment and to tackling tax avoidance.”