Archive of Postings for October and November 2014


Special Deals

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday sandwiching the weekend the consumers in society have been at peak consumption. And the chief motivation has been getting a one-off retail bargain. But for some of the big corporation structures behind the UK retailers involved seem to have been getting massive bargains every week - through complex schemes that minimise their tax bills.

Man2Now this is nothing new. Years ago it was claimed Ford had not paid any UK corporation tax since it was first established. But recently the large-scale corporate tax reduction issue took a new twist. It hit the news when the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists made public their analysis of leaked documents related to over 500 favourable tax rulings made by Luxembourg. All made while the new EU president - Jean-Claude Juncker - was its prime minister.

They published a well researched case showing that many companies were using offices in Luxembourg simply as mailbox addresses. And discovered that just three buildings in Luxembourg held the registered national offices of more than 4,000 corporations whose businesses were carried out elsewhere. The revelations of how Luxembourg’s corporate tax avoidance factory actually worked have made Juncker’s repeated claims that his country was not and still is not a tax haven sound a very long way from the truth. But then JCJ is famous for his statement "When it becomes serious, you have to lie" - and it certainly looks serious now. Time for the EU to get out a big brush and find a big carpet?

Whats_VATBut enough of the international big issues. What about us at the grass roots? Well for at least one festive purchase it must be good news. Look at this order summary received from a major online retailer earlier this week.

Does that VAT amount seem odd to you? It’s unlikely to be a computer error - so perhaps the Chancellor has cut the VAT on music to just 6% without telling us. Or perhaps there are some cross-border manipulations at work. Who knows? But it’s certainly cheaper than the 2.26 charge that VAT at 20% would have incurred.

tags: don’t have to pay, tax, EU, state approved, pork pies



Think Of A Number .. Any Number

Yesterday Borat-160the BBC News bulletins were headlining a report stating that EU migrants had added 20,000 million to the UK economy over a ten year period to 2011. Even though this was only aired yesterday the item has sunk out of the news summaries today. Not surprising considering just how misleading the headline was and how many holes were shot in it once in general circulation.

But leaving aside the arguments over what has been missed from the calculations it was the identity of the authors that was quite interesting. The lead name was Prof Christian Dustmann (definitely not Lonnie Donegan’s father) an immigrant to the UK from Germany who has occupied various posts at University College London (UCL) for around 20 years. UCL is conveniently located for any civil servants wanting suitably academic reports on topics they want to avoid tackling themselves.

And the same Prof Dustmann did produce a report on immigration for the Home Office in 2003. It contained the hugely inaccurate prediction that from 2004 the level of EU immigration would increase by just 5,000 to 13,000 a year.

This time his report is issued by CREAM (Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration) - an organisation conveniently located at UCL and lead by Prof Dustmann. Reading along further you will see that CREAM is backed by NORFACE Migration (also located at UCL and lead by Prof Dustmann) and the European Research Council - an agency of the European Commission. The plot thickens.

Agents_Mulder_ScullyNow quite separately there is a long-running story on the Internet known as the Bielefeld Conspiracy. The story involves the unusually low-profile for the German city of Bielefeld. It claims that dark forces and the authorities have created and maintained an illusion that this city actually exists. So anybody claiming to have been to or knowing anyone from Bielefeld must be part of the conspiracy or have been deceived by the elaborate illusion.

And yes .. Prof Dustmann claims at have a Vordiplom (BA) in Business Economics .. from the University of Bielefeld.

Time to call back those very special agents ..

tags: lies, statistics, x files, conspiracy, theory, EU



Don’t Start From Here

Now that the HS2 project has become an unstoppable political necessity it must be time to think through how to get the best out of it. And starting at the beginning; a serious question has to be - why start at Euston?

The HS2 route planned for getting out of central London involves a tunnel all the way from Euston to Old Oak Common and beyond. There it will connect with the Crossrail project and, unsurprisingly, the station may be renamed Crossrail Interchange.


Even with the existing plans there are clearly huge savings to be made in time and cost if HS2 simply started from Old Oak Common. When you also consider that all the trains to and from Euston are planned to stop at Old Oak Common - most passengers from Birmingham would find it quicker and easier to leave HS2 at the interchange; even if it did not reduce the fare. Switching to Crossrail here would provide travellers with direct services to far more districts of London than Euston would. Also the Interchange is planned to link with the existing Heathrow Express service and the Great Western Main Line.

Eliminating the low-speed HS2 section from Euston would also reduce the journey times to and from Birmingham. And if the plans were revised further so that the HS2 and Crossrail tracks actually connected - rather than being just close by- then trains could run directly between Birmingham and all points served by Crossrail to the east.

So who could be against a logical scheme that reduces costs, saves travel times and links with more locations?

Well at this point we get back to politicians. Conservative MP Theresa Villiers has rubbished the Old Oak Common interchange plan as being Wormwood Scrubs International and Mayor Boris Johnson ruled that the interchange station would not receive any extra Crossrail funding. It is still on the plans only because Kensington and Chelsea Council underwrote the 33 million involved. MP Philip Hammond has said that it is not an option to .. Lug your heavy bags down a couple of escalators along 600m of corridor and then change trains at a wet suburban station somewhere in north west London. Not the brightest of endorsements but then I assume that Mr Hammond must actually live at Euston Station or has a civil service chauffeur on call. Certainly anyone arriving in London by train or plane from almost anywhere will have to lug their heavy bags down a couple of escalators, along 600m of corridor and change trains more than once to get to a wet main line station somewhere near Euston Road ...

Now there was a plan to make Heathrow the interchange point with HS2 but that seems to have disappeared - like the unresolved objections to both the detail of and the overall case for HS2. Despite everything Old Oak Common station remains the key interchange on the detailed HS2 groundwork plans as at this morning. So it seems that we are heading for yet another compromise where everyone gets second best ...

tags: railway, hst, high speed, transport, big spender



Not So Smart

TSomeMothers1his month has seen a renewed media prominence for the UK Government’s smart energy metering plans - for example the BBC giving another news slot for the body charged with its introduction. And so far these plans seem to be taking the normal route of a poor analysis of the costs / benefits followed by a total blanking of anyone that does accept the Ministry’s conclusions.

But where did this mad scheme to scrap millions of working gas and electricity meters for no guaranteed benefit come from? It would be easy to blame Ed Miliband - since it was he that produced the UK plans in 2010 when Energy Secretary.

However it was not entirely his own idea. It actually came from the EU. Under their Third Energy Package (2009) member states (we prefer to call them countries) were required to undertake a cost benefit analysis of smart meter roll-out and submit the results to the EU Commission by 2012.

Countries that have actually done this analysis found insufficient benefits in around one third of the studies covering electricity metering and two-thirds of those covering gas metering. The big undecided was Germany. However they have now given a maybe response with Germany officials stating that the EU proposal would be inadvisable. Because installation costs would be greater than achievable energy savings for those users with low power consumption - in other words the typical Grandad. And this is exactly the same conclusion reached by many in Britain who are already very careful with their energy usage.

No amount of tariff searching and supplier swapping will avoid the fact that the cost of smart meters will be added to everyones’ bills. The careful user - who probably already has an electricity usage monitor and submits regular readings online - will see their efforts to reduce bills reversed by tariff increases they did not want, need or deserve.

There are, of course, plenty of opponents of the scheme - for example - but there is a danger that their arguments will drift away from the failures in the cost / benefit analysis onto less certain issues such as the possible health effects of wi-fi radiation.

So does the muddled mind of Frank Spencer live on in our esteemed Government and its civil servants? Yes, Minister.

For a more see the 2013 article at The Register.

tags: energy, waste, flawed analysis, no commercial experience


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