A pledged crackdown on tax evaders who fail to pay tens of millions to the Treasury has been a failure, a North East Labour MP says.
Blyth Valley’s Ronnie Campbell’s comments come after tax expert Richard Murphy estimated around £80m was not paid to the Government last year.
The MP also called on the Conservatives to reverse job cuts at HM Revenue and Customs (HRMC) which he says have shrunken the workforce by 43% in just over a decade.
He said: “The current Tory-led coalition has promised a clamp-down, but have not acted on those empty promises.
“Think how many new hospitals, schools and care homes could have been built across the North East.
“It is a disgrace and the next Labour government will sort it out.”
The report, commissioned by the Public and Commercial Services union, revealed the overall amount of tax owed, evaded or avoided has barely reduced despite tough-talking pledges by the Government. It adds evasion could rise to £100bn by 2018-19.
The report focused on economic activities not recorded or declared so as to avoid government regulation or taxation; tax lost as a result of other criminal or fraudulent activity in the UK economy; capital gains tax and inheritance tax and offshore tax evasion; and tax evasion on investment and rental income.
The report recommends introducing a proper anti-avoidance rule into UK tax law; country-by-country reporting for multinational corporations; reform of small business taxation; and proper regulation of companies in the UK to ensure they file their accounts and tax returns and pay the taxes they owe.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 30 Sept 2014
Passport Office workers in Durham are on strike today over staff shortages.
The Public and Commercial Services union voted for the strike after extra staff were drafted in to deal with a 30,000 backlog in applications.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The staffing crisis in the Passport Office has been obvious for everyone to see and it shouldn’t have taken a committee of MPs to force the chief executive to meet us to discuss it.
“We are still a long way off getting a commitment from the agency that it will work with us to put the proper resources in place to ensure these backlogs do not reoccur year after year.”
HM Passport Office Chief Executive Paul Pugh said the 775,000 applications received in June had been the highest ever recorded in a single month and denied claims the agency was in disarray.
Sunderland could grind to a halt tomorrow as thousands of local government workers go on strike.
Members of unions including Public and Commercial Services (PCS), Unison, GMB, National Union of Teachers (NUT), Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and Unite will walk out nationally.
Although it is not clear how many employees will take part, Sunderland City Council has warned the action was likely to affect most of its services, with many council buildings closed.
Most schools in Sunderland will shut, although some will remain open and others will partially open for some year groups. Some children’s centres will be closed.
All customer service centres will be closed along with libraries, with the exception of the City Library.
All leisure centres and wellness facilities, including Sunderland Aquatic Centre, will also be closed – though the Raich Carter Sport Centre will remain open. All museums will be closed.
Bin collections will be hit, while Beach Street household waste and recycling centre will be closed. The industrial action also means that there will be no cremations or burials on the day.
“We have to make the point that this is not just about pay, but the future of the services that our members provide,” Unison’s Sunderland organiser Helen Metcalf .
“One per cent is a cut in real terms of 20 per cent since the coalition government came to power, and that would see almost 90 per cent of our school and local government workers receive a further pay cut, rather than a pay award.
“The chancellor committed that everyone earning under £21,000 would receive and extra £250, but this has never been paid.”
She added: “We don’t take strike action like this lightly, but people coming out when they are already suffering, shows just how strong the feeling is, that people just can’t afford to live on this anymore.”
Chief executive Dave Smith said: “This is a national dispute affecting public services across the country. And although it’s not entirely clear at this stage how many employees will take part in the industrial action, we are anticipating widespread disruption to council services and we have planned ahead on that basis.
“We will be doing everything we can to protect the most vulnerable members of the community and ensure that services to them are maintained. We ask members of the public to bear with us during this time and we apologise for any disturbance to normal services resulting from this national dispute.”
Durham County Council says that although it has taken steps to minimise the impact on emergency and essential services, most council buildings will be closed to the public.
An up-to-date list is available at http://www.durham.gov.uk/schoolclosures. There will be no waste collections, but household waste recycling centres will open as normal.
Firefighters will walk out – between 10am and 7pm – as part of the long-running dispute between the FBU and government over pensions, and people are urged to take extra care to protect themselves from the risks of fire.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 09 July 2014
Hundreds of civil servants staged a walkout in a dispute over Government plans to cut 10,000 jobs nationally and close offices.
Around 95 per cent of the 400 workers at the HMRC offices in Peterlee who are members of the PCS (Public and Commercial Services) union, went on strike yesterday.
It was part of a national day of action across revenue and customs staff and was the first day in a week of rolling industrial action across the country.
The union could also join 1.5m public sector workers in a walkout on July 10 over a Government offer of a pay rise of just 1 per cent.
PCS northern regional secretary Simon Elliott said: “The key is the strong support we have had across the region and that’s been borne out in Peterlee where over 90 per cent of staff have stayed away from work.
“The Government is threatening to cut another 10,000 HMRC jobs and they have already closed a whole number of offices and have already cut about 10,000 jobs.
“The Department has a vision for reducing HMRC staff down to a handful of regional offices.
“There has been a threat to HMRC offices for a long time, but this HMRC vision is a relatively new thing that’s come out in 2014.”
As well as the Peterlee staff, civil servants in the rest of the North-East, Cumbria and Scotland also staged walkouts yesterday.
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 23 June 2014
> The North East – the one region where unemployment continues to rise, no matter how they try to fiddle the figures.
Government response ? Move more jobs out of the region. You know it makes sense…
Dozens of North-East jobs are at risk of being moved out of the region as part of Government privatisation plans.
Staff at the Department for Education (DfE), in Darlington, were informed this week that the department is looking into plans to outsource IT posts.
The proposals, which are still in the early stages, are understood to affect up to 30 jobs at the DfE’s Mowden Hall offices and more in other areas of the country.
Plans to move out of the run-down Mowden Hall were announced by the DfE in 2012.
Hundreds of jobs were put at risk of being moved out of Darlington to elsewhere in the region.
Thousands of people signed a petition to keep the jobs in the town, with council leaders and Labour MPs Jenny Chapman (Darlington) and Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) joining the campaign.
The DfE ultimately gave in and agreed to house the at-risk jobs in a purpose built office block in Darlington town centre.
Currently under construction and expected to be complete by the start of next year, the £8m office block is seen by many Darlington residents as an extension to the town’s 1960s-built Town Hall, widely agreed to be in need of major improvement work.
With the DfE yet to comment on these latest plans to outsource Darlington jobs, it remains to be seen whether or not it is the case that some of the hundreds of jobs the new office is being built to accommodate will never actually be moved there.
The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union, which campaigned strongly in favour of keeping members’ jobs in Darlington, has been informed of the latest plans and is considering its position.
Mrs Chapman called the latest developments ‘distressing‘.
She said: “There is a wider pattern from the Government in attempting to outsource these kinds of jobs, they are trying to do it with the Ministry of Justice.
“Sending public sector jobs offshore goes against everything the Tories have said about wanting to bring jobs back to the UK.
“It would be dreadful if, after everything we have been through to secure these jobs in Darlington, we were to lose a number of them in this way.”
The DfE has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
Source – Northern Echo, 20 June 2014