Are Britain’s Green guardians clueless on future investments for this country post Brexit?


Safeguarding UK green interests or clueless watchdogs?The five new trustees of the Green Purposes Company – James Curran,Trevor Hutchings, Tushita Ranchan,Robin (Lord) Teverson and Peter Young. Pic Credit: Green Purposes Company


At the end of last year this blog published a highly critical piece on the sale of the Green Investment Bank which brought a  mint of money for the City and uncertainty for those who want to see a carbon free future.

The  blog was based on the findings of the National Audit Office report into the sale which showed the taxpayer had lost out yet again and the biggest beneficiary was the  Aussie private equity investment bank Macquarie for £1.6 billion  which had a bad rating on green issues and its subsidiary Thames Water is better known for polluting the Thames and failing to repair  burst water mains.

As reported before  business secretary Greg Clark let the bank get away with a non binding public statement to finance green projects for the next three years and instead set up a trust – the Green Purposes Company  -which could shame the new owners if they fail to keep to their pledge.  In theory they have powers to prevent changes to GIB’s green purposes, but this does not extend to control of, or input to, investment decisions.

The five trustees are independently appointed and include James Curran, former chief executive of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency: Lord Teverson, a former Liberal Democrat energy spokesman and Peter Young, an environmental management consultants But they are not paid to monitor such a big private equity company .

Hardly surprising the Commons Public Accounts committee has backed the scepticism of the National Audit Office. In a report  it condemned the way it was sold

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, Committee Deputy Chair said:

” The manner in which it was sold off is therefore deeply regrettable. Government did not carry out a full assessment of the Bank’s impact before deciding to sell, nor did it secure adequate assurance over the Bank’s future role.

This was a UK initiative but the rebranded Green Investment Group is not bound to invest in the UK’s energy policy at all, nor to invest in the kind of technologies that support its climate objectives.”

But since the sale there has been worse  disclosures.

Mps on the environment audit committee decided to grill two of the trustees, Peter Young and Lord Teveson, and the head of the company, Edward Northam. They were equally sceptical.

Here is an extract of some of the trustees response ( or lack of) to MPs written   questions.

5. How will leaving the EU affect the UK’s ability to leverage investment into low-carbon and environmentally friendly projects in the UK?
No response
6. What options are there for the UK’s future relationship with the European Investment Bank? What would be the implications for green investment in the UK?
No response
7. Given the work being carried out by the EU’s High Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance,where should the UK’s newly created Green Finance Taskforce concentrate its efforts?
No response

At the oral hearing both the head of the company and the two trustees were closely questioned by the chair, Mary Creagh; Green MP Caroline Lucas; Tory MP. Zac Goldsmith among others and they did not seem impressed. They were offered excuses why the new Aussie owners had hardly invested in any new projects and until the company revealed that the trustees have a budget of £100,000 a year ( small feed for a multi billion pound company) to monitor developments by the company head, were even reticent to discuss that.

You can get the text of the  full hearing or watch it here.

It is hardly an impressive performance and seems to suggest the first fears expressed on this blog are well justified. The government has dumped Britain’s green investment future and it will be interesting to see if the trustees really do have any teeth to do much about it.


Tories to implement new nasties for next generation of poverty stricken pensioners


Guy Opperman, pensions minster and MP for Hexham pic credit: guy opperman website


The attack on the 3.9 million 50s women who have lost their pension income is about to be stepped up again – with the poorest pensioners suffering a new round of misery  as a result of legislation passed by the coalition government in 2013.

The Mirror in a scoop last week by Dan Bloom has revealed that nearly one million women who could have claimed pension credit have been denied cold weather payments this year because of the rise in the pension age.

Pension credit is paid to the poorest people who can’t qualify for a pension and have less than £10,000 savings but it is linked to the pension age. It is also the passport to other benefits  – including cold weather payments. This year’s cold weather provoked by the Beast from the East has  meant more money has had to be paid out – but ministers have saved millions by raising the pension age.

According to the Mirror: There were 2.6 million eligible claimants on Pension Credit in 2010/11, the Commons Library figures show.

That fell to 2.4million in 2012/13, 2.1million in 2014/15, 1.9million in 2015/16, 1.8million in 2016/17 and 1.7million in 2017/18.

But there is worse in the pipeline. From this June a particularly nasty measure comes into force for new people claiming pension credit. Basically it means that if a woman falls for a younger man or a man falls for a younger woman – their entitlement to pension credit is forfeited when they reach the new higher pension age.

Previously the law said when the oldest person in a relationship reached pension age  they qualified for pension credit. Now it is being changed to the youngest person in the relationship reaching pension age. This means if there were a 10 year difference – the oldest person could get no pension credit payment until they were 76 – ten years after the raised retirement age.

The details are in this document here. House of Commons library Pension Credit – 2017 onwards. You can access it here.

The money involved is substantial :

Rates 2017/18

Standard minimum guarantee single £159.35 couple £243.

Additional amount for severe disability

single£62.45 couple (one qualifies) £62.45 couple (both qualify)£124.90

Additional amount for carers £34.95

But there  are also two other changes in the small print of pension changes coming into force. One involved a rather obscure named  Assessed Income Period (AIP)introduced by Labour in 2002 and 2008.

“The Labour Government’s intention, with the introduction of AIPs, was to make means-testing less intrusive for pensioners, by no longer requiring them to report changes of circumstance to the Pension Service on a weekly basis,” according to House of Commons library.

This meant the government only means tested people every five years and once pensioners reached 75 it stopped. At the time Tories and Liberal Democrats were worried that if people got worse off they wouldn’t get extra benefits.

Once both parties were in power they decided to abolish this – but not for that reason. The financial impact of such a change was shown in 2013 to benefit the government with  cuts worth £45m by making it law that pensioners lucky enough to get any extra income had to report it immediately so they could slash pension credit.

Another cut came into force in 2016. This reduced the period  people on pensioners credit could go abroad from 13 weeks to four – without having the benefit taken away. As  one of the comments from Buried News points out allowing people to spend a cold winter in warmer climes might help the elderly. But both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats at the time would have nothing of it.

The benefit is only claimed by 60 per cent of the people who are entitled to it. The House of Commons library report said: “Up to 1.4 million families who were entitled to receive Pension Credit did not claim it and up to £3.3 billion of available Pension Credit went unclaimed.”

Guy Opperman, the pensions minister, told Parliament:” We are committed to ensuring that older people receive the support they are entitled to and the Department targets activity on engaging with people who may be eligible at pivotal stages such as when they claim State Pension or report a change in their circumstances.”

He claimed the best way to help the elderly was to create “a web-based Pension Credit toolkit containing a range of resources for anyone working with pensioners.”

Somehow given his determination to slash the pension budget I suspect few people will believe he is really committed to that.






A former top Unison official slammed by a judge selected to be a new Labour councillor for one of London’s deprived wards

Linda Perks at a Unison protest. pic credit Flickr

Linda Perks at a Unison protest. Pic credit: Flickr


Most of the rows about Labour candidates being selected in London  for May’s local government elections have centred around the rise of Momentum and challenges to established Labour leaders in Haringey and Newham.

But while all this is going on quietly a new kid on the block has emerged unnoticed in the London borough of Greenwich. She was the sole person criticised by a part time judge in a hearing over the election of Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, Britain’s largest public service union last year.

Linda Perks, the former London regional secretary, was castigated by part time judge Mary Stacey during as certification officer hearing which followed complaints about rule breaking from other candidates who challenged Dave Prentis for the job.

The judge upheld a complaint against Linda Perks,  for flagrant breaches of union rules – after reading a transcript and listening to a secret tape of a meeting held at the TUC’s Congress House, where, it is said, 50 officials were urged to break campaigning rules to ensure the re-election of Dave Prentis. The code name for the campaign was ” Special Chocolate Biscuits”.

After listening to the tape the judge ruled :“ Ms Perks tone is not just confident and swaggering in so openly breaking the rules but chilling in its brazenness and demonstration of unchecked power”.

She blatantly had known she was breaking union rules by getting officials to organise support for Dave Prentis during work time which was against union rules. The judge notes that it almost looked that for 3 or 4 days officials would do little else but campaign for Mr Prentis.

Linda Perks was suspended by the president of the union. But the judge said:

“The subsequent leisurely disciplinary proceedings of Ms Perks and outcome do not inspire confidence or serve as a deterrent for future overzealous officers. Some might think the move to National Secretary in Head Office on unspecified strategic projects retaining all pay and benefits represents reward rather than punishment, though she has endured the imposition of a final written warning.”

Since then Linda Perks has retired from the union and was given a huge farewell party attended by Dave Prentis who tweeted ” Absolutely packed house to thank Linda Perks, one of our longest serving regional secretaries. We will all miss her”.

Now the Labour selection body has selected her as one of three candidates to represent Charlton- one of the poorer wards in the borough. There is a full report by a local journalist and blogger, Darryl Chamberlain on his blog. He quotes an email  from her saying:“My union work has also enabled me to develop a good understanding of how councils work and how decisions are taken.”

The ward she is representing is one of the poorest in the borough. Its faded grandeur has led it to put on the ” at risk register” by Historic England as reported here. It has a low level of  home ownership and high levels of council housing and housing association and higher levels of unemployment.

Linda Perks declined to reply to a request for a comment about her selection. Her contribution to local affairs – should she be elected for this safe ward where Labour romped home in 2014.  – remains to be seen.




Janner’s family – and his accusers – denied core participation status in Westminster child sexual abuse inquiry

Alexis Jay at the Rotherham inquiry Pic credit BBC

alexis jay at her previous inquiry into Rotherham child sexual abuse


The Janner family and their accusers have all been denied ” core participant ” status in Westminster child sexual abuse strand of the independent child sexual abuse inquiry.

Instead they will keep ” core participant” status in a separate strand of the inquiry which examine the allegations against his father in an inquiry into child sexual abuse in institutions in Leicestershire where he was an MP.

Core participants have special rights in the Inquiry process. These include receiving disclosure of documentation, being represented and making legal submissions, suggesting questions and receiving advance notice of the Inquiry’s report.

Alexis Jay, chair of the inquiry, announced the decision, following an appeal by his son, Daniel Janner and his two daughters, Marion and Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner.

Daniel Janner told the preliminary hearing in January :”The strand does risk turning into a witch-hunt of dead politicians,a circus, where fantasists will have free rein to live out their fantasies in evidence. There were no paedophile rings in Westminster, save in warped imaginations. But the evidence and findings of the Westminster strand will have an influence and bearing on the strand which follows in my late father’s name, because, madam chairman, the two strands — again,  as we have witnessed today — are inevitably and inexorably intertwined.”

Alexis Jay said yesterday: ” The extent that Mr Janner’s application is based on concerns about his father’s reputation, and his ability to respond to allegations made about his father, these are matters for the Investigation involving the late Lord Janner of Braunstone QC, in which the children of the late Lord Janner have already been granted core participant status.”

The inquiry also refused an appeal by a survivor who was sexually abused under the care of Hackney social services. but he may be able to appear as a witness.

” I acknowledge that WM-A4 may be able to provide the investigation with a first-hand account of what his lawyer described as “a system” of practices involving child sexual abuse operating at Westminster. This may well make him a useful witness to this investigation and the Inquiry will consider whether to ask him to provide a witness statement.”

Other decisions made earlier include granting core participant status to Esther Baker,

Alexis Jay said of her :
“Ms Baker alleges that she was sexually assaulted by persons of public prominence associated with Westminster and that there were institutional failings in
connection with that alleged abuse by police and law enforcement services.

“Ms Baker was under 18 years of age at the time of the sexual abuse described and therefore within the Inquiry’s terms of reference. Ms Baker also alleges related failings by public officers and bodies. I am also aware that Ms Baker has spoken publicly and in her own name about these matters, and I regard that as an important factor in considering the nature of her interest in this investigation.”

The Westminster strand also  accepted as core participants survivors who say they were sexually abused by Sir Cyril Smith- the former Rochdale MP – in  the context of Westminster. And Mike Veale, chief constable of Wiltshire Police, who ran Operation Conifer, into allegations of sexual abuse by Edward Heath, will also be a core participant.

Among others turned down for this strand include Jonathon Brackenbury who alleged sexual abuse in the military,  one from Sarah McDonagh  alleging sexual abuse involving a magistrates bench and one from Sabine McNeill on a  cult in Hampstead, London. Jonathan Brackenbury decided on his own volition to withdraw his application but is willing to be  called as a witness giving details he gave to the now closed  Met police Operation Midland while he was working as a Homeless Housing Worker in the West End / Earls Court area of London in the 1980s. He is also proposing to submit a case to the inquiry for an investigation into sexual abuse in the military.



50s pensioners: Time for you to put the boot into your local councillor at May’s elections


Waspi Pensioners :Time to use your vote wisely Pic credit: BBC


The 3.9 million 50s pensioners have a great opportunity to get their views across at the local elections to be held on Thursday May 3.  Elections will be held in all 32 London boroughs, 34 metropolitan boroughs, 68 district/borough councils and 17 unitary authorities.  There are also elections for mayors in the London boroughs of Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, Tower Hamlets and just outside London in Watford.

Local elections are of course about local matters. However the performance of political parties at local elections is always judged by the media as a snapshot of national voting intentions. Also the attitude of local councillors towards the plight of women denied their pensions for up to six years could well be symptomatic of their attitude towards other injustice issues.

You can do this by first getting on top the House of Commons library constituency estimates of the 3.9 million people affected here

Go to the end of the summary and download the constituency estimates ( You will need Excel on your computer).Then look up your constituency and the total number of people affected. You will find it is thousands in your constituency.

Next go onto  the  Wikipedia link at the end of the report and see if your council has elections. Then go on to the council’s site and chase up your ward councillors.

Challenge them to  put pressure on their MP to get government policy changed so you will get your money. If they refuse vote for the nearest challenger who will.

So where are the key places where 3.9 million women can make their votes count. Here are some good examples with all the links  set out for you.

In London where all the seats are up for grabs, the most obvious place to register a protest vote is Barnet. There are 18,200 women affected in the borough and the council is narrowly Conservative who oppose any change or concessions to the women.

The ruling Conservative group has a majority of one (32 Conservative, 30 Labour and one Liberal Democrat) in 2014. You can check the result for the ward you live here. 

Another is the London borough of Hillingdon where there are 16,100 women affected and it is represented by two high profile MPs, Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, and John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor. The current council has 42 Conservatives and 23 Labour. You can get a ward breakdown here.

And for a different slant the Royal London borough of Kingston has 12,000 women affected (though some are in Richmond) and a council with 28 Conservatives, 18 Liberal Democrats and 2 Labour councillors – a Conservative majority of eight. You can check your ward here.

Some of you may find yourself in Richmond as  Tory Zac Goldsmith’s Richmond Park constituency straddles both boroughs.

Conservatives have a bigger majority in Wandsworth with 41 seats topping Labour’s 19 and there are 11,900 women affected living there. You can find your ward here.

A longer shot is the London Borough of Bexley which has 45 Conservative,15 Labour and three UKIP councillors. But it has 15,200 women affected. A run down on your local ward councillors is here.

.Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire is currently not under any party control. It has 25 Labour councillors, 18 Conservatives, 13 Liberal Democrats and one UKIP councillor. One third of the council is up for election. There are 14,400 women affected in the borough. So it will provide an ideal opportunity to put all the parties on the spot. You can check your ward here.

Calderdale also has a third of the council up for election. The council which covers Halifax and the surrounding area has 12,900 women affected. The council is also not under any party control. The council has 23 Labour members, 21 Conservatives , 5 Liberal Democrats and two Independents. You can find your ward here.

The full list of councils where elections are being held is here.

They include big cities like Manchester, Birmingham, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle upon Tyne as well as smaller places like Hastings, Gosport, Portsmouth, South Lakeland, Maidstone, Huntingdon and West Lancashire.


Gove takes the lead in a Whitehall Brexit spending spree to bypass Parliament

michael gove

Michael Gove – top of the great Brexit spenders- and first to use a dodge to bypass Parliament.


The government is planning a Brexit spending spree  this year without any say by Parliament.

Hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money will be spent  setting up   bodies  to replace work done by the European Union some using a Whitehall  wheeze devised by a Treasury mandarin to get round  scrutiny by MPs.

Michael Gove, the environment secretary, is poised to be the first to use the new  system to allow ministers to spend large sums of money on Brexit without the approval of Parliament.

Very simply the dodge involves turning on its head a procedure called an accounting direction – normally used  when a senior mandarin -wants to challenge spending by a minister as illegal or questionable. It was most famously used when a senior civil servant questioned aid to pay for  Malaysia’s Pergau Dam – when he discovered the money was being authorised by Margaret Thatcher as part of a secret defence deal. It was also used to question extra costs on the Millennium Dome under Tony Blair. More recently a civil servants challenged the government paying for a survey requested by a UKIP council in Kent.

Now Whitehall mandarin Richard Brown has devised a scheme which will allow ministers to get round Parliament by using the same procedure to spend money on Brexit without waiting for legislation to be passed by Parliament. The letter is here. 

It has been sent to 25 ministerial departments, 20 non ministerial departments and over 300 agencies.

It followed a letter from the Treasury and the Department of Exiting the EU which also allowed ministries to raid the contingencies fund without waiting for laws to be passed.

Both senior civil servants are claiming that the requests for extra cash will be known to Parliament as they have informed the chairs pf the public accounts committee and the public administration committee. Some people might think that in all the huge coverage of Brexit they might be overlooked.

Today  Civil Service World reports that a massive £245million has been routed by a supplementary estimate to spend money on Brexit with Michael Gove’s Defra department taking the lion’s share of £67m closely followed by HM Revenue and Customs with £47m and £42m for the Home Office to work out a new immigration system.

On top the permanent secretary of Defra, Clare Moriarty, has asked Michael Gove to approve £16m of cash for a whole series of projects without waiting for legislation.

These are:

The new national import control system for animals, animal products and high risk food and feed. Scheduled to commence building: mid-January 2018. Estimated cost before Royal Assent: £7m.
– Delivery of new IT capability to enable registration and regulation of chemical substances placed on the UK market. Scheduled to commence building: February 2018. Estimated cost before Royal Assent: £5.8m.
– Delivery of systems for the licensing and marketing of veterinary medicines. Scheduled to commence building: end-January 2018. Estimated cost before Royal Assent: £1.6m.
– Development of a new catch certificate system for UK fish and fish products being exported to the EU on Exit. Scheduled to commence: building end-January 2018. Estimated cost before Royal Assent: £1.0m.
– Development of a UK system to manage the quota of fluorinated gases and ozone depleting substances required under the UN Montreal Protocol. Scheduled to commence: March 2018. Estimated cost before Royal Assent: £0.5m.
– Development of data exchange arrangements to identify the movement of EU and third country vessels in UK waters and the movement of UK vessels in EU or third country waters. Scheduled to commence: April 2018. Estimated cost before Royal Assent: £0.1m

This gives a small glimpse of how complicated the change will be. One mistake and Britain could be thrown into chaos as it has relied on the EU for authorisation and will have to sign up for everything again , including international conventions.

Imagine what would happen if there are errors in the licensing of veterinary medicines for example. It could mean that it will be illegal for your pet to get the proper medicine from the vets.

Also it reveals that large sums of taxpayers money are going to have to go on new bureaucracies to administer all this.  So where will be the Brexit dividend?

And all this is being pushed  out ” under the counter” by mandarins and ministers. If the coverage of errors and waste endemic in Whitehall are anything to go by, Britain could easily face total chaos after 2019. It’s going to be a hell raising time as we leave the EU.



50’s Women:”Nobody will see their pension entitlement changed by more than 18 months” – Theresa May’s crass error

theresa may in parliament

Theresa May in Parliament Picture YouTube


There was an extraordinary error by the Prime Minister, Theresa May, when she was challenged by Ian Blackford, the Scottish Nationalist leader, at Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament today.

Mr Blackford used one of his two questions to raise the plight of the 3.8 million WASPI women who have been hit by the government’s  decision to raise the pension age from 60 to 65, then 66 and 67.

Mr Blackford asked: “Yesterday we celebrated the achievements of the suffragette movement, which was about democracy, equality and fairness for women.

“However, today in the United Kingdom, 3.8 million women are not receiving the pension to which they are entitled. A motion in this House last November, which received unanimous cross-party support—the vote was 288 to zero—called on the Government in London to do the right thing. Will the Prime Minister do her bit for gender equality and end the injustice faced by 1950s women.”

The Prime minister replied:

“As people are living longer, it is important that we equalise the pension age of men and women. We are doing that, and we are doing it faster. We have already acted to give more protection to the women involved. An extra £1 billion has been put in to ensure that nobody will see their pension entitlement changed by more than 18 months. That was a real response to the issue that was being addressed. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to talk about equality, he has to recognise the importance of the equality of the state pension age between men and women.”

What this showed is what 3.8 million women waiting up to SIX years for their delayed pension have yet to get the message across. Theresa May just thinks you have a little wait of 18 months. And this £1.1 billion  concession is just a future cost to the government over the next two years, no money has been paid out yet.

This ignorance – caused by her only taking into account the changes in 2011 affecting the rise in the pension  age from 65 to 66 for both men and women – shows how ignorant the Prime Minister is.  Considering she is in that age group herself – but guaranteed to get a large Parliamentary and Prime Ministerial pension in her right-plus a big payout for her wealthy hubby – shows the gulf between the Metropolitan elite and the ordinary person. Mo misery for her in her old age.

But it was good news that the SNP leadership were taking women pensioners plight seriously. About time Labour and Liberal Democrats did the same.

UPDATE:  Ian Blackford said today (Thurs) : ” The Prime Minister’s reply was outrageous. She was being economical with the truth. We are all know there have been some horrible cases as a result of this policy and something will have to be done.

“I am not just sympathetic I will not let this matter go.”

Later Guy Opperham, under secretary for works and pensions, made a statement in Parliament saying  the government were  not going to do anything and would fight any legal challenge by the 3.8 million people to change its mind. He was cagey about announcing the last date when people who were never told about the change until years afterwards could complain about maladministration.

Watch him and the short debate that followed here

Guy Opperman has a majority of 9,286 over Labour in his Hexham constituency in Northumberland. There are 6000 constituents who are 50s women and have suffered from a policy he has no intention of changing. If they all switched to his nearest challenger he could lose his seat. That is up to you.