AccessDocs is now dormant!

Thanks for visiting the blog. I am no longer updating it, but will be leaving all the content online.

You can find out about my current journalism work (and contact details) on my website.

For reference, here are some links to the most frequently read articles on AccessDocs:

Thanks for reading,

Martin

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£750m of unpaid tax written off by English councils

EXCLUSIVE

Unpaid taxes totalling more than £750m have been written off by local authorities over the last five years, figures have revealed.

Last year £147.7m of council tax was wiped from accounts in England, following a £168m write off the year before.

The figures, released by the Department for Communities and Local Government, included debt incurred from previous years which councils had given up chasing. Reasons for not collecting council taxes include absconding, bankruptcy and death where no assets exist.

Local Government Minister Grant Shapps said: “Every penny of council tax that isn’t collected means higher council tax for the law-abiding citizens who do pay up on time. It’s vital that councils do all they can to support their residents and by having efficient collection services, they are better placed to keep bills down for everyone.

“Of course councils should not be heavy-handed, should protect the vulnerable, and should use bailiffs as a last resort. Councils should instead look at ways to better improve collection rates and ensure better value for money for all taxpayers.”

Separate figures released last year in response to a parliamentary question named Manchester City Council as the local authority with the most unpaid taxes. More than £11m was owed to the council by the end of March 2010 with 9.1% of taxes unpaid.

Salford, Stoke-on-Trent, Bradford and several London boroughs were also in the top 10 of councils with the highest proportion of council tax due.

Councils that managed to collect the highest proportion of taxes included City of London and the Isles of Scilly where less than 1% of taxes was unpaid by 2010.

All in it together: George Osborne’s family business reveals big losses

This blog post was also published as an article in the Guardian. 

For AccessDocs, I am also uploading the PDF files of Osborne & Little’s full accounts – here (2011) and here (2010). Please do get in touch if you spot anything interesting that I’ve missed! 

George Osborne’s family business has made a loss of nearly three-quarters of a million pounds, the third year in a row it has announced a deficit.

The upmarket fabrics and wallpaper company Osborne & Little, which is chaired by the chancellor’s father, Sir Peter Osborne, made a pre-tax loss of £739,000 in the last financial year. That followed a loss of £150,000 the year before, and a £7.5m loss in the preceding 12 months. George Osborne has a 15% stake in the family firm.

A series of cutbacks have been made by the firm since 2009, but financial losses have deepened.

The company has made workforce cutbacks, with £538,000 saved from salary payments over three years. However, the directors have only taken a small reduction and have kept their combined salaries at more than £1m. Political donations by the firm were axed in 2011, following a donation of £3,500 last year. Company pension contributions have also dropped, by £80,000 since 2010.

Losses have forced the company to increase its borrowing by almost £1m, bringing its net borrowing position to more than £2m. The latest accounts, published by Companies House, blame the financial losses on an increase in the cost of raw materials. The report said: “With overheads being maintained at prior year levels, the loss for the year was a direct consequence of the falling margins.”

The company, which was set up by Sir Peter Osborne and his brother-in-law Anthony Little in 1968, has a turnover of almost £23m. It says that 46% of its sales are made outside Britain, including 35% to continental Europe.

The chancellor’s mother, Lady Felicity Osborne, was appointed as a director of the firm last year, with her husband.

George Osborne has previously spoken proudly about the family business: “It’s been a part of my family for the whole of my life. I was always aware as a child when things were going well and when things weren’t going so well, so it’s given me a strong understanding of what’s involved in running a business – the risks, the hard work and the commitment.”

A company review of its finances said that tough economic times will continue: “Market conditions continue to be challenging in the current economic climate and there is little sign of this changing in the near future.” But it insisted: “The company is well placed to take advantage of any improvement in its principal markets and will continue to focus on cost control.” Osborne & Little were contacted but did not comment on its finances.

The financial losses are a further blow to the firm, which was reported to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) this year over allegations of price fixing. A complaint was made to the regulator claiming that the firm had illegally blocked discounts for luxury products. It was also accused of trying to bully other company directors. The OFT refused to comment on the case but the allegations are believed to have now been dropped.

Is everyone really on Twitter? Is it really the new world power? … No.

A bit different from the usual type of blog posts on here, but these stats are quite interesting.

Newspapers seem to constantly use Twitter as a source for news stories and people talk about it as some kind of world power. Here’s the way it actually is…

Twitter internet statistics

Sources:

http://www.businessinsider.com/chart-of-the-day-how-many-users-does-twitter-really-have-2011-3

http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm

Priorities: how the government spent your cash

This graphic compares the money being spent on the 2012 Olympics, with some of the things the government has cut to “save” money.

Speaks for itself.

olympics spending cuts comparison stats graphic

Enjoy the Olympics!

341 British soldiers court martialed for violence

A side to the Army you don’t often see in the press – this document reveals the numbers of soldiers who were court martialed in 2009 and 2010.

The court martials included:

  • 341 for violence
  • 55 for sexual offences
  • 20 for indecent photos
  • 74 for theft

View the document here: http://www.mod.uk/NR/rdonlyres/B4583293-8E55-42A9-93D7-FF43CA30C51C/0/CourtsMartial_20092010_Breakdown.pdf?

MOD’s FOI disclosure log: http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/FreedomOfInformation/DisclosureLog