The billionaire owner of Northumbrian Water is at the centre of a documentary being aired on North East screens on Monday (12 Jan) night.
The water company, owned by Hong Kong-based Li Ka-shing, one of the richest men in the world, has made more than £630m profit in the last two years, according to BBC investigations programme Inside Out.
But the firm pays on average less than 10% tax because of a legal tax loophole, the show will claim.
Northumbrian Water told the BBC that the company always acts transparently and within the letter and spirit of the law, adding that it is not in dispute with HM Revenue and Customs on its tax affairs.
But presenter Chris Jackson will tell viewers:
“Northumbrian Water sounds nice and local but when you pay the bill you may be surprised to learn the profits leach away to the other side of the world.”
Mr Li is the richest man in Asia, and 17th richest in the world, with an estimated wealth of £20bn.
He owns Superdrug and the Three mobile network, invests in Spotify and Facebook and has owned Northumbrian Water, which employs 1,600 staff, since 2011. He also runs a charitable foundation.
In terms of his North East assets he ranks alongside Mike Ashley and the Duke of Northumberland – except nobody here has ever heard of him, says Jackson who asks in the show:
“Of all the things he could have bought in the world, why did he buy a slice of the North East?”
Interviewee Professor David Hall of the University of Greenwich, will tell the documentary:
“The UK government provides a regulatory environment which most people think of as protecting the consumer, but its core objective is to ensure that the companies continue to make enough profits so that they want to carry on investing.”
In the last two years, Northumbrian Water has paid less than 10% tax on £630m profits, compared with the 20% standard corporation tax, because it has borrowed £1bn from Mr Li, Jackson will claim in the documentary.
The government has looked at closing the tax loophole – which is completely legal – but decided against it, prompting Labour MP John McDonnell to attack the situation in the House of Commons last year. He said:
“No wonder he’s the world’s ninth richest person. We’re making him the world’s ninth richest person. I think this is a scandal.”
> Earlier the article named him the 17th richest person. Perhaps he’s lost a bit since last year, poor dear. Down to his last few billion.
Mr McDonnell is calling for an independent public inquiry.
Nobody from the government would be interviewed for the programme, but a statement from the Treasury said recent analysis showed that changing the system used by Northumbrian Water would not save money and would undermine the competitiveness of the British economy.
Most utility companies in the UK now have owners dotted across the world, the programme will say.
> Well of course they are – subsequent governments – of all colours – since Thatcher have been obsessed with selling off the family silver to the highest bidder. A process that continues today with the NHS and DWP.
Barbara Leech, from the Consumer Council for Water which represents customers, will appear in the documentary describing how Northumbrian Water – which provides water supplies to the homes of 2.7m people in the North East – is top of the league in terms of satisfaction with services.
The full story can be seen on Inside Out (North East and Cumbria) on BBC1 at 7.30pm on Monday 12 Jan, in an episode which also features a Tyneside surgeon’s dream of building a hospital in India’s slums and a Teesside woman who helped shape modern Iraq. It will also be available on iplayer for 30 days.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 12 Jan 2015
Fewer pupils in the region are attending fee-paying schools, new figures show.
There are 69,847 pupils at private schools in the North belonging to the Independent Schools Council (ISC), compared with 70,577 pupils in 2013.
Across the country, 7% of schoolchildren are at independent schools. The underlying trend over the last year has been growth, but pupil numbers declined in the region, falling by 1% in the North.
Almost half of the country’s independent schools are located in London and the South East. According to the census, independent schools in different parts of the country have faced different sets of challenges.
Among those schools that participated in the census in both 2013 and 2014 there was a rise in pupils of 1% in London and of 0.5% in the rest of the South East.
Hilary French, headmistress at Newcastle High School for Girls, says the fall in pupil numbers has to be linked to the region’s struggling economy.
“People are doing really well in the South East but we are not feeling those effects yet,” she said. “The Government is trying to save money in public services, which is detrimental, because these services form a really large part of our economy.
“We have to be aware that some parents are struggling – the North East is the only part of the country that hasn’t seen a rise in house prices. We have to hope that the London ripple effect is all to come for us.
“But with the severity of the recession and what’s been happening to the economy here, a 1% fall is quite encouraging. All independent schools are businesses and any business has to look at its situation in the economy – how it needs to attract and retain customers. There are lots of excellent independent schools in the North East. Both Royal Grammar School and ourselves have waiting lists for pupils. Those schools which can move with the times and provide what the market wants are doing very well.”
School fees climbed by 3.9% last year, the lowest rise for almost 20 years. The overall average annual fee, excluding nursery fees, is almost £15,000.
The census said 166,268 pupils nationally – 33.4% of the total – received help with their fees. ISC schools provided more than £660m of help with fees in the academic year 2013/14, an increase of 5.1% on last year.
Schools gave more than twice as much help in the form of bursaries as they did in scholarships. The survey said means-tested bursaries were worth an average of £7,894 per pupil a year and were held by approximately 8% of all ISC pupils.
Pupils from overseas helped to buttress numbers during the recession, and last year their numbers rose 1.4% to a total of 25,912. The two regions supplying the largest number of overseas pupils are Europe (38%) and Hong Kong and China (37.2%).
Ms French added: “We are finding that overseas pupils, particularly from China, want to come to us as a day school and stay with either relatives or host families.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 30 April 2014
Defrocked UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom, a swivel-eyed loon of the first order, has come up with another one – ban the unemployed from voting.
He has attacked the fact that some will still get a vote even if they have “contributed nothing to the national exchequer at all and maybe never will”.
You might well think he’s talking about corporations who pay no tax here, or rich individuals who can afford accountants to bend the rules to avoid paying their fair share, but of course no…Bloom subscribes to that weird right-wing theory that the poorest are to blame for everything, and are probably doing it just to be spiteful.
No, his solution is that the electoral system needs to give “more electoral power” to the wealthy who “create the revenue”.
In other words, a system where the vote of the richest is always worth more than that of the poorer electorate, and those at the bottom getting none at all.
Good thinking Godfrey ! When the worst off in society cant even comfort themselves with the thought of voting idiots like you out at the next election (even though that prospect is a rank outsider at the best of times) then maybe bombs not ballots will become the order of the day. Because once you’re totally disenfranchised, what have you got to lose ?
He explained his rationale further – “I do not expect to vote in a Unite ballot because I am not a member and pay no dues. I do not expect a vote at Marks and Spencer’s AGM because I am not a shareholder. We need to get to a system where the interest of the individual and the state are more compatible.”
Yes Godfrey but… you see, this is a nation, not a company or a trade union. The vast majority didn’t apply to join it, we just ended up here as an accident of birth. If the accident had been slightly different some of us might have been born with silver spoons in our mouths and would spend our days trying to dodge paying taxes rather than scraping by.
And this idea that the poorest contribute nothing. Bloom, who apparently worked as a financial economist (although it may be worth noting that in 2008 Bloom’s company,TBO, was fined £28,000 by the Financial Services Authority for ‘posing an “unacceptable risk” to customers) doesn’t seem to realise that however poor you might be you still pay taxes – Council Tax and VAT at the very least. Some unfortunates also have to pay the Bedroom Tax. So lets have less of this “contributing nothing” crap.
Of course the man’s an arse, although what that makes the people who voted for him I shudder to think (and I am almost tempted to suggest that they are the people who should have their right to vote removed).
He is a member of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a tax-exempt libertarian organization located in Auburn, Alabama. Its website states that it is dedicated to advancing “the Misesian tradition of thought through the defense of the market economy, private property, sound money, and peaceful international relations, while opposing government intervention” and has published views critical of democracy, which authors in Institute publications have called coercive, and incompatible with wealth creation… so I think we have pretty good idea of where he’s coming from.
Bloom, who seems to hate women almost as much as the poor, confessed that has visited brothels in Hong Kong. He claimed however he never consummated the visits (even the most hard up prostitute has to draw the line somewhere …) and also claimed “terrified young women beaten into prostitution often from Eastern Europe […] is only a very small aspect of the flesh trade”, and concluded that “in short, most girls do it because they want to.”
After inviting students from the University of Cambridge Women’s Rugby Club to Brussels in 2004, he was accused of sexual assault, making “sexist and misogynistic remarks” and using offensive language during a dinner party. One student handed a formal letter of protest to the President of the European Parliament, heavily criticising Bloom’s behaviour.
Bloom who sponsored the club with £3,000 a year, admitted making misogynist comments but denied sexual harassment. Perhaps, given his Hong Kong experiences, he thought his three grand actually entitled him to act like that.
In December 2008, Bloom was carried out by an intern after making a speech in the European Parliament while drunk, the second occasion on which he was accused of being drunk in the chamber. During the speech, Bloom denied that MEPs from Poland, the Czech Republic or Latvia have the ability to understand economic relations.
On 24 November 2010, Bloom was ejected from the European Parliament after directing a Nazi slogan at German MEP Martin Schulz who was speaking in a debate on the economic crisis in Ireland. Bloom interrupted Schulz and shouted “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer“ at him.
Bloom was filmed at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen congratulating the French for bombing the Rainbow Warrior, a Greenpeace ship, in 1985.
In the clip, posing in front of the present Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior II, Bloom said, “Here we have one of the most truly fascist boats since 1945, well done the French for sinking (it).”
Truly a prince among men…