Chris Rea – Josephine – Politics and music collide or NOT

I like much of Chris Rea’s music and have seen him live a few times over the years, the last time at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall.

One of his tunes has stuck in my head forever – Josephine. There are quite a few different arrangements of it which Rea has used over the years, particularly live versions and you can find pretty much all of them on YouTube.

This is my favourite:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZpEz3-kj44

And here’s the Wikipedia page all about Rea:-

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Rea

If you scroll down the page you get to the collision between music and politics i.e. the fake news about him donating money to the Conservative Party when in fact it was donated by someone else with the same name. I must admit to being taken in by the fake news that it was the musical Cris Rea when I should have said to myself don’t believe all you read in the UK press!

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.”

Divert cash to mental health, urges Lib Dem MP

David Laws, the Liberal Democrat education spokesman, has said that schools should use extra funding for poor pupils to tackle mental health problems. He told the NAHT conference that there was a “huge gap” between help for young people’s mental and physical health. He added that schools should feel free to use the pupil premium, which gives extra money for deprived pupils, on measures to support children from unstable homes, not just on additional teaching or one-to-one tuition.

The Times covered this story

key_david_laws

I like this kind of innovative thinking from David Laws. I suppose you could call it thinking outside the box but whatever you call it the thrust of it must be right. Improving a child’s mental and/or physical health must give them the chance of a better start in life and therefore an improved opportunity to gain a good education.

With thanks to the LGiU for the lead to this story

Pollution in cities could raise dementia risk as UK breaches EU limits

Scientists have found that breathing in polluted air in cities could raise the risk of dementia and stroke in middle age. The study, published in the journal Stroke, found that levels of fine particles commonly found in urban areas were associated with smaller brain structures and of covert brain infarcts — a type of “silent” stroke caused by a blockage in the blood vessels that supply the brain.

The Times newspaper covered this story

Pollution is a subject often comment upon via this blog site and here is another connection between airborne pollution in our cities and associated health risks.

Government must act on air pollution

The UK’s Supreme Court has ruled that the government must take immediate action to reduce air pollution, after the nation breached EU limits on nitrogen dioxide, which is primarily emitted from diesel vehicles and causes a range of respiratory illnesses. The Environment Department responded that it had already begun drawing up revised plans to meet EU targets, after campaigners ClientEarth brought the case to court.

Financial Times, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, & The Guardian covered this second

When the Tories and UKIP get the UK out of the EU who will set limits for pollution then? No one will and we will take another step back into the dark ages!

Pollution – For how long is Liverpool destined to be excluded from EU sulphur emission rules?

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2014/08/15/sulphur-limits-for-fuel-used-by-ships-in-the-irish-sea/

Some time ago, with the help of a local environmental campaigner, I published the posting above. Now moving on to the present day an article appeared in the Times newspaper on 16th February under the heading ‘£300m port aims to revive Liverpool’s glory days‘.

Seaforth Docks and hinterland

Seaforth Docks and hinterland

The article was all about the new river berth and the ability of the Port of Liverpool to be able to take the Post-Panamax size container ships. Of course this impacts on the ability of the road and rail infrastructure to and from Bootle/Seaforth to be able to cope with what will undoubtedly be increased traffic to and from the Port. More diesel trucks and indeed diesel trains can only increase air pollution and particulates in and around the docks and I have also commented on this aspect of the revitalisation of the docks previously.

Anyway, back to the Times article because buried in the middle of it is this:- ‘Liverpool is allowed to handle older, dirtier big boats because Britain’s west coast ports are not covered by the EU’s sulphur emissions rules that prevent such vessels going into other European ports’.

So there you have it, a worrying scenario indeed and it clearly begs the question, how long will it be before Britain’s west coast ports are included in the emission rules? Frankly, from my perspective, for any ports to be excluded is unacceptable. Please don’t hang the success of our local economic prosperity on us having lower environmental standards.