Tackling tax avoidance

Actionaid are running a ‘towns against tax dodging’ campaign which is encouraging Council’s to pass motions against tax dodging. The only real tax the Council has powers to stop people dodging is Council tax, as it’s the government and HMRC which are really able to take meaningful action in this area. There maybe some lobbying benefit though if lots of Councils were to pass motions about tax dodging.
We think it’s also worth highlighting that since 2010 Liberal Democrats have made significant efforts to tackle tax avoidance, here are some of the things the we have achieved in government.

Tackling tax avoidance at home

  • As the coalition sorts out Labour’s economic mess, Lib Dems in government are increasing revenues by clamping down on aggressive tax avoidance and evasion. It’s not fair that when most are making a contribution to balancing the nation’s books, a minority are escaping their duty.
  • A model of the Lib Dems’ targeted General Anti-Avoidance Rule (GAAR) is now in operation. It is targeted at abusive and artificial avoidance schemes, preventing cat and mouse games which occur when new schemes are created every time the Government blocks an existing loophole.
  • Lib Dems are investing more than £1 billion in HMRC to tackle tax avoidance and evasion and expect it to deliver £22 billion in 2014/15, £10 billion more than Labour managed in their last year.
  • Lib Dems are increasing the number of HMRC staff working on tax evasion and tax avoidance by 2,500. Labour let the number of staff drop by 9,000 between 2005 and 2010.
  • Danny Alexander has introduced procurement guidelines to ensure that the companies who take on Government contracts above £5 million self-certify compliance with their tax obligations. If they get involved with avoidance, they risk losing access to government business.
  • In April this year, Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable announced plans for a list of true company owners because for a company to be trusted, Lib Dems need to know who is really in charge. UK companies will no longer be able to use complex structures and trails of paper to hide information behind bogus owners and directors.




Tackling tax avoidance abroad

  • Lib Dems think it is important that the UK takes a leading role in helping other countries to legislate against tax dodging.
  • Lib Dems are supporting tax capacity projects to help developing countries increase their tax revenues. We’re working with international organisations such as the African Tax Administration Forum, the World Bank and the OECD to provide technical assistance.
  • Last year, Lib Dems announced almost £10 million of new funding to support projects to tackle tax avoidance in developing countries.
  • At last year’s G8 summit, the UK reached an agreement with other major countries to establish the automatic exchange of information between tax authorities. The UK Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories have also joined up to this initiative, which will boost our ability to tackle cross-border tax evasion.
  • In January this year, the Treasury announced that it had received £340 million from the Swiss Government following an agreement Lib Dems made with them to tackle tax avoidance.

Lib Dems win key pledges from new administration on Calderdale

It has become clear that the Labour Group has no intention of honouring the assurances it gave in May 2014 that it would consult and work with the other parties represented on Calderdale Council.

This has come to a head over the past week, when there have been two instances (Hipperholme crossroads and the imposition of parking charges) where the Labour Cabinet have made clear their intention to push ahead with their own agenda. They are ignoring the views of the public of Calderdale and the wishes of the Council that were clearly set out at its budget-setting meeting in February.

All the current opposition groups on the Council believe that the attitude and actions of the Labour Cabinet are totally unacceptable, and that the public of Calderdale deserve better. We therefore had no option but to call for a vote of no confidence in the current administration.

The Liberal Democrat group will not be entering into a Coalition with the Conservatives. We are our own party with our own agenda. We will support a Conservative and Independent coalition on a supply and demand basis. In return for our support of their administration as a group we have won a guarantee of the following.

·         The new administration implements the budget decisions from this year’s Annual Council Budget. Including the scrapping of evening parking charges in Halifax, and at car parks such as King Cross, Greetland & Stainland, Mytholmroyd and Todmorden.

·         There is a review of Neighbourhoods to include the possibility of setting up community hubs across Calderdale.

·         A Commitment that the Council will keep the Pellon Network Centre open and running.

·         Ensuring that the Council uses its powers under s215 of the Town and Country Planning Act to get owners/developers to tidy up derelict sites (eg the Hope St/Halifax Rd site in Todmorden).

We have also ensured the new administration will consider

·         Setting up a process where a petition of 1,000 local people can trigger a debate in Council (similar to that introduced by the Coalition Government at a national level).

·         Reviewing the Cabinet system to examiner whether the Committee system of governance would be a more effective way of representing residents views and running Calderdale Council.

To achieve these aims, the only option open to the Council was to remove the Leader of the Council and replace him with someone who will honour these commitments in stark contrast to the way Labour deliberately have not.

Falling unemployment helping to provide opportunity for all

Calderdale Liberal Democrats have welcomed falling unemployment levels across the borough. Latest figures on those claiming Job Seekers Allowance show that there are now more than a thousand less people unemployed in Calderdale than when Labour left office in 2010.

Liberal Democrat parlimentary candidate for Calder Valley: Alisdair Calder McGregor said:

It’s fantastic news that unemployment has fallen across Calderdale, as the vibrant local small business scene here benefits from Liberal Democrat policies for SMEs.”

Our Apprenticeship policy is also helping to get young people into a trade & learning business skills early, enabling them to get on in life on their own hard work.”

Economy & Environment spokesperson Cllr James Baker said:

Liberal Democrats in Government are not only helping to build a stronger economy, but also a fairer recovery. Our tax breaks for people on lower incomes are helping to ensure that everyone is given an opportunity to get on in life.”

As of May 2014 there were 4,613 people claiming JSA which accounts for 3.5% of the working population. This is a fall of over 1,000 from the figure of 5,978 which was 4.6% of the population when Labour left office in 2010.

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Labour plan to cut local community services

Labour’s budget proposals for Calderdale Council include cutting £240K in 2015/16 and £340k in 2016-17 from local services in the communities budget. This includes a ‘review’ of neighborhood offices and community libraries. The proposals put forward by the Labour cabinet state there will be 15 FTE of redundancies in the service. Although the cuts are not specified it is clear from the large budget savings put against them they would decimate these services.

This plan breaks Labour’s promise to stand up for front line services in Calderdale.  In fact their decision to freeze Council tax instead of opting for a modest rise in Council tax in line with inflation has meant the Council has had to find around another £700k in savings.  A freeze in Council tax means a reduction in spending power in real-terms.   This  means the Council has to find additional savings, and make further cuts. Labour can’t have it both ways, firstly claiming to their left-leaning supports they are fighting the cuts, only to then adopt a low tax approach funded by further cuts to local services. 

Despite Labour hiking up parking charges, and cutting community services a Freedom of Information Action act requests has revealed Labour cabinet members have provided themselves with taxpayer funded iPads. With cabinet members already getting an allowance of over £21,000 expensive gadgets like this could be funded out of their own pockets.

Local services such as our libraries matter to people  in Calderdale, that’s why our proposed amendments to Labour’s budget seek to reverse this cut. We want to see more effort put into co-locating services, concentrating on essential buildings owned and run by the Council, with a real drive to establish  “community hubs” which will protect and promote local services (such as libraries), and enable  closer working with local community groups.

 

Agreement Reached on Budget Changes

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The Liberal Democrat and Conservative groups on Calderdale Council have reached agreement on amendments to Labour’s budget proposals and will be putting these to the Budget Council meeting to be held on Monday (24February).

Together, the two groups have 28 members to Labour’s 21, with two independents.

Liberal Democrat group leader, Cllr Janet Battye (Calder) told us: “While Labour say they run an open and transparent administration, that has not been our experience. Labour have drawn up their budget plans with no involvement from any other group and apparently no plan as to how they were going to get the Council to approve it. Although they run the Cabinet, they do not have a majority on the Council.”

“Our overarching aims have been to make better use of the Council’s resources to support a fairer society and build a stronger economy. Our plans do this by:

  • Freezing the Council’s element of the Council Tax bill for the coming year and the following year. We also aim to freeze Council Tax in 2016;
  • Increasing the Council’s Business & Economy Service to provide expert help and advice that will enable local business to increase their exports;
  • Reversing some of the recent changes to car parking charges and increase a shoppers’ parking scheme. Both will aid the local economy;
  • Increasing the size of the Safer, Cleaner, Greener teams, enabling them to place more emphasis on tackling dog fouling;
  • Providing each Ward Forum with a sum of £5,000 so that issues of local importance can be addressed;
  • Establishing a fund that local schools can access to tackle issues with their buildings that are too big for their own budgets, but which never make it to the top of the Council’s priority list.

“These budget proposals give a clear signal of the way we wish the Council to operate over the coming years. I hope that the Council approves them” said Cllr Battye.

MEP slams Calderdale Council’s waste of EU funds

Liberal Democrat MEP for the Yorkshire & Humber region Edward McMillan-Scott has slammed Calderdale Council for proposing to sell off a community centre only recently opened with a mix of EU, charity and Council funding.

Labour run Calderdale Council has given just 21 days notice over the Christmas period of its plans to sell a community centre in the Pellon area of Halifax. The Pellon Network Centre was opened in 2008 with a chunk of funding from the European Regional Development Fund. This fund was meant to help an economically deprived area of Halifax.

Commenting on the proposal McMillan-Scott MEP said:

“I am very disappointed that a local community centre – set up with the help of EU funds – is going to be sold-off by local Labour councillors just a few years after it has opened. With such investment from the EU and elsewhere, this is a centre worth fighting to keep open.”

Liberal Democrat Ward Councillor Ashley Evans is pointing out that the terms of the EU funding stipulate the economic lifetime of assets should be 15 years, this would be from 2008. If the Council wants to change the use or dispose of the assets within 15 years they need to get the permission of the Secretary of State, otherwise they could have to repay the grant back to the EU.

Councillor Evans said:

“Attempting to sell this community centre over the Christmas period is a disgrace. The EU gave this money to help a struggling area of Halifax, and now the Labour Council want to sell it off just a few years after it has opened. I don’t know if they have the economic competence to have realised this could result in them having to repay the grant.”

Councillors Ashley Evans, James Baker campaigning to save the centre with Paul Tait and Jennifer Pearson

Councillors Ashley Evans, James Baker campaigning to save the centre with Paul Tait and Jennifer Pearson

 

Sign the petition to keep the centre open.

Notes: Appendix 4 “Economic Lifetime of Assets” of the National European Regional Development Fund Handbook on page 64 under item c states the economic lifetime of assets should be 15 years. This would be from 2008. If the Council wants to change the use or dispose of the assets within 15 years they have to get the permission of the Secretary of State (this would be DCLG so Eric Pickles). If they don’t get permission then they could have to repay the grant back to the EU.

A link to the document is provided here

 

 

Good news for rural broadband

Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has published the Coalition Government’s National Infrastructure Plan – a plan for more than £375bn of public and private sector investment in energy, transport, flood defence, waste, water and communications infrastructure up to 2030 and beyond.

It comes on the day that six major insurers announced plans to collectively invest £25bn in UK infrastructure over the next five years. Much of this investment could go into the projects published today.

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Commenting, Danny Alexander said:

“The Liberal Democrats are building a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life.

“Our economy is growing because of the hard work of people and businesses throughout Britain. But the Coalition’s economic plan is the rock on which our recovery is being built – it wouldn’t be happening without the Liberal Democrats.

“The announcement today that six major insurers will invest £25bn over the next five years is a massive vote of confidence in the UK economy. It supports the wider £100bn public investment to rebuild Britain over the next seven years that I announced at the Spending Round 2013. Underground, overground, on shore, offshore, wired or wireless, tarmac or train track. You name it, we’re building it right now.

“This is great news for the people of the UK because after years of neglect, the UK’s energy, road, rail, flood defence, communications and water infrastructure needs renewal. It will boost the UK economy creating jobs and making it easier to do business. It will also make the UK a better place to live for everyone who calls it their home.”

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for Calder Valley welcomed the announcement saying:

“Increasing rural broadband brings huge benefits to everyone living or working there. It’s tremendously good news that the government is looking at all options, including mobile broadband enhancements which could also boost phone signals along the Calder Valley, having positive benefits for safety in emergencies and enhancing the draw of the area for Tourism.”

Business strategy demonstrates Labour can’t be trusted with the economy

Sadly we are not very impressed by the Council’s draft business and economy strategy, as it fails to set out an ambitious vision of sustainable, fair and equitable growth.

Our criticism follows the publication of a draft business and economic strategy by the Labour Cabinet, which will determine how the Council supports local businesses over the coming years. The document demonstrates that Labour can’t be trusted with the future of Calderdale’s economy.

Cllr James Baker, Economy and Environment spokesperson said:

The report is comparable to someone who has planned a trip by throwing a load of useful items in the back of their car, but hasn’t thought where they are heading to.”

The report lacks ambition and focuses too much on the recession we are now emerging from, rather than planning for a future in which Calderdale prospers in a global economy. We believe that the strategy needs to do more to spell out how we will create more jobs and growth through building our exports and links to the global economy, sharing wealth through development of mutual and co-operatives and generating our own sustainable energy in a manner that reduces energy bills for local residents.”

In comparison, our vision is to build a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life. An economy in which businesses in Calderdale benefit from increasing exports with Europe and the wider world, an economy where we produce our own sustainable energy, an economy in which people share in the wealth we create together.”

We will be submitting a full response to the consultation that is currently open, and we hope in due course that the Labour-run Cabinet will take on board our suggestions on how to build a stronger economy within Calderdale.

UK manufacturing is driving economic recovery

Commenting on figures showing UK manufacturing growth at a two and half year high, Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party Committee on Business, Innovation and

Skills, Gordon Birtwistle said:

“The Liberal Democrats have helped to create more than a million jobs in the private sector – now we want to help create a million more. Manufacturing is absolutely crucial to that and UK manufacturing growth hitting a two and a half year high is fantastic news. “These figures are welcome but there is a long way to go. For years Labour and Conservative governments let British manufacturing ollapse, the Liberal Democrats are determined to rebuild it in order to drive our economic recovery.

“That’s why we are putting billions of pounds into high-tech manufacturing, science and renewable energy. And it’s why we are massively increasing the number of apprenticeships to make sure employers get the skilled workers they need.”

Lib Dem motion to suspend Mytholmroyd car park fees defeated

Calderdale Liberal Democrats have called for a suspension of plans to introduce car parking fees in Mytholmroyd.  Deputy Group leader of the Liberal Democrats Councillor James Baker put forward a motion on the Economy and Environment Scrutiny panel asking that plans to introduce parking fees are shelved in light of the ongoing difficulties faced by businesses struggling to recover from the floods.

The move follows previous efforts by Luddendenfoot ward Councillor John Beacroft-Mitchell to get the charges suspended due to the exceptional economic circumstances faced by flood hit Mytholmroyd. Unfortunately though the Labour group who run Calderdale Council are seeking to push ahead with the plans. This has sparked outrage from local residents, and businesses who are opposed to the plan.

Commenting Councillor James Baker said

“Mytholmroyd has a set of exceptional circumstances, it has a small row of shops that were severely affected by the floods and a lack of any other free parking spaces. These charges will add to the cost of living for residents  and deter people from using local shops.”

Labour ward Councillor and Conservative Chair oppose the motion

The motion was opposed by Councillor Simon Young the Labour Councillor who is meant to stand up for people in Mytholmroyd, and the Conservative Chair of the committee. This was particularly disappointing following the Conservative’s previously expressed opposition to the parking plans. A motion from the panel would have helped the campaign to drop the charges.

Campaign against charges goes on

The Hebden Bridge Times has reported on the campaign against the charges. Liberal Democrats Councillors Tony Hodgins and Christine Bampton-Smith have been working with Royd regeneration in opposing the plans, and helping to inform local residents about them. They were successful in persuading Hebden Royd Town Council to oppose the plans, and write with their objections to Calderdale Council.

Councillor Tony Hodgins said:

“Royd Regeneration wants the best for the shops and it just seems like this is a backward step.”

Time for  a re-think

Calderdale Council needs to cover the costs of its car parks. However we must acknowledge the exceptional circumstances facing some areas  in Calderdale that have been affected by flooding. Shops in Mytholmroyd are really struggling, and desperately need our support to help build a stronger economy so they can get on in life. In light of  the ongoing flood recovery it’s simply not tenable to proceed with plans to impose car parking fees on these communities.