Wednesday 14 March 2012

Andy Slaughter And National Press Highlight H&F Council's Dubious "Consultants" And Tax Scam But Still No Action From The Government

The FT
Last month H&F Council hit the headlines in most of the national and local press for possibly operating outside UK tax laws and building up an estimated tax debt of £15m. In almost every article featuring H&F Council there was also a quote from the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP (Con), the Communities and Local Government Secretary. He announced to the media that he would personally be cracking down on Town Hall tax dodgers saying: "Local people have a right to know whether town hall tax-dodgers are short-changing the public purse; whether bumper bonuses are being awarded to poorly performing workers; or whether pay is being hiked up for execs who've boomeranged from post to post."

It was therefore particularly odd that H&F Conservatives chose to ignore Mr. Pickles call and instead voted against this proposal as featured on pages 8 and 9 of the minutes from the Annual Budget Meeting on 29th February:
  1. "To inform HMRC of all cases where it has employed individuals via personal service companies and ensure it tax obligations are met and up to date"
  2. "To report to Cabinet and the Audit and Pensions Committee full details of any back-taxes and fines issued by HMRC on IR35"
  3. "To review its use of agency workers looking for more cost effective means of employing individuals and to publish all details of agency workers employed by LBHF and/or its subsidiaries and detail the salaries of all of those over £100,000.00 per year."
The Guardian
My Labour colleagues and I first raised these matters in 2010. H&F Conservatives have had to be dragged kicking and screaming into even considering their dubious employment of "consultants" as full time employees or ensuring the resulting tax problems are properly dealt with and in order. Yesterday, Hammersmith's Andy Slaughter MP (Lab) took all this to parliament when he arranged a Private Member's Debate titled Pay and Consultants (Public Sector). You can read his excellent speech here in Hansard.

So will Mr. Pickles act and investigate a council he has previously described as the "apple in his eye"? There is of course the law and then there's the spirit of the law. H&F's Conservative Administration appears to be operating outside of both in this instance and may therefore have put all local tax payers at risk of having to fork out for fines as well as back taxes. Words are easy, now it's time for the government to sort all of this out.

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