John Ward – Lawless Britain: Green Belts, Hospital Stats, Outsourcing Fraud, HMRC Tax Collusion, And Lies About Torture – 19 December 2013

kenliestitleMore than half of English councils with greenbelt land are preparing to allocate some of it for development ahead of brownfield sites.

A survey commissioned by the National Trust found that 30 of the 59 councils that responded who had greenbelt land in their local authority area – 51% – were likely or very likely to allocate it for development in the next five years.More than half of the 147 respondents to the survey by the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) said they had brownfield sites available that could help meet a five-year housing land supply target – but these had not been considered viable.

The chief executive of a scandal-hit hospital under investigation over the manipulation of cancer waiting times has resigned. Dr Gordon Coutts, who is on sick leave, will not return to Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust by ‘mutual agreement’. he was personally alerted to allegations about the manipulation of data as early as 2011, but failed to act. Police are investigating claims that staff were ‘pressured or bullied’ by  managers to alter cancer waiting times in order to meet national targets, potentially putting lives at risk. The £165,000-a-year boss has been accused of having a ‘fixation’ with government targets.

Serco has revealed the mounting costs of its clash with the government after the security group was found to be overcharging the taxpayer for monitoring criminals. The estimated costs incurred because of the electronic tagging scandal were revised up to £36m, from a previous estimate of £27m, for the full year to 31 December. That figure excludes the payment Serco will be required to make for overcharging the government since the tagging contract began in 2005, the costs of which are expected to run into the tens of millions of pounds.

The company said in was in the advanced stages of reaching a financial settlement with the government, adding it would provide an update shortly. Serco, along with fellow outsourcing group G4S, is also the subject of a formal Serious Fraud Office investigation into how the tagging contract was priced. The company said it was co-operating with the SFO but declined to comment further on the investigation.

The taxman failed to collect £35billion by letting giant corporate companies off the hook, a damning report reveals today. HM Revenue and Customs seems to “lose its nerve” when faced with taking legal action against global giants, the Commons Public Accounts committee said. It has found out that so far this year, a measly £440million has been clawed back in unpaid tax from Swiss bank accounts instead of the forecast £3.12billion.

Chairman of the committee, Margaret Hodge, said: “In pursuing unpaid tax, HMRC has not clearly demonstrated that it is on the side of the majority of taxpayers who pay their taxes in full. Last year the department collected less in real terms than in 2011/12. This was despite the stated ambition to crack down on tax avoidance. The tax gap did not shrink, but grew to ­£35billion. Yet that does not capture all the tax Government should be collecting. For instance, this figure does not include all the tax revenue lost to aggressive tax avoidance schemes.”

I should point out that these case-histories represent an exact cross-section of newspaper political leanings in Britain, thanks to the good offices of the site Balancednews.

In between compiling it, I switched on the telly and watched Ken Clarke “explaining” why Camerlot had effected a spectacular u-turn on its repeated commitment to hold an independent, judge-led inquiry to get to the bottom of unresolved allegations that the UK was complicit in torture in the aftermath of 9/11. The government sat on the findings of Sir Peter Gibson’s aborted inquiry for 18 months. This time could have been used to design a new human rights-compliant inquiry that would be credible both in the eyes of those who were subjected to torture and the British public. However, it appears that the Government has been busy trying to concoct an even less transparent and independent process.

Clarke told the Commons that “it is the police who have delayed the enquiry, and as we know, no politician can put pressure on policemen”. Of course not Ken, of course not. Mind you, I know a media conglomerate who can do it at the drop of a hat. Should you need an introduction Squire, just say the word.

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