Friday 23 March 2012

Bunker Mentality

Private Eye issue 1310
Hammersmith and Fulham’s Conservative Administration has again made it into the pages of the most recent issue of Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs, with more news on the Council’s “consultants” and tax scandal.

Cllr. Harry Phibbs (Con), the Borough’s Cabinet Member for Community Engagement, has been busy sending off complaints to the media that have featured the scandal. He has also used his Daily Mail Blog to attack the BBC’s award winning File on 4 programme for also exposing what’s happening in Hammersmith and Fulham in its special documentary titled “Tax Avoidance.”

But, the Sunday and Daily Mail have both done an excellent job of scooping H&F’s peculiar approach to tax and “consultants” both here in 2010 and here in 2011. It's doubtful Cllr. Phibbs wrote to complain to the Editor in those instances and I doubt Mr. Phibbs even told his editor that he was going to contradict the papers' previous line.

One sharp eyed local resident has also written me to point out a further discrepancy. This time it's between Cllr. Phibbs’ position on tax avoidance and that of the Rt Hon George Osborne MP (Con), the Chancellor of the Exchequer. On Wednesday Mr. Osborne told Parliament “aggressive tax avoidance is morally repugnant” thus ignoring the advice offered by our Borough's Cabinet Member for Community Engagement just seven days earlier that “tax avoidance is routine.”

And if H&F Conservatives still haven’t got the message they just need to look in the Treasury’s Budget Red Book. There’s a whole section that relates to Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s employment policies that I have pasted here:

“2.207 Personal service companies and IR35 – The Government will introduce a package of measures to tackle avoidance through the use of personal service companies and to make the IR35 legislation easier to understand for those who are genuinely in business. This will include: strengthening up specialist compliance teams to tackle avoidance of employment income; simplifying the way IR35 is administered; and subject to consultation, requiring office holders/controlling persons who are integral to the running of an organisation to have PAYE and NICs deducted at source by the organisation by which they are engaged.”

As previously reported, my fellow Labour councillors and I want H&F Council to carry out a full internal investigation going back the full six years that HMRC could look into. We require evidence and assurances that all back taxes are paid and that the Borough has done all it can to avoid a hefty fine. There is little doubt that senior Conservative Councillors' time would be better spent ensuring that instead of attacking any journalist that happens to report what’s actually going on in Hammersmith and Fulham Council.

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