Whitehall doesn’t rule OK: How Wendover canal trust tragically missed out on a £1 million payout from river polluters

thames water

Thames Water’s pollution of the Wendover Arm led to the £1m fine

Over a year ago I raged about the injustice of the very wealthy Thames Water private utility being fined £1m for polluting the Wendover Arm of the Grand Union Canal  with sewage because they ignored a simple £30,000 repair to the outfall of Tring sewage works. The article is here.

I thought it was particularly unfair on the volunteers who are restoring the canal  and decided to write to our local MP, David Gauke, who is now chief secretary to the Treasury, suggesting that the government might reimburse the fine to help the trust. which desperately needs the money.I also lobbied David Lidington, now leader of the House, to see, as Wendover is in his constituency, whether he would back the idea.

Conservative Party Portraits

David Gauke MP, the Treasury minister said No

David Gauke took a long time to reply ( he admitted that his office had mislaid my letter) but finally at the end of January he replied from the Treasury.

His answer was a resounding NO. He wrote: ” Fines are considered a tax-type revenue and government departments and their agencies, in this case the Environment Agency, are legally obliged to surrender these receipts to the Treasury. revenue surrendered to this account is not ring fenced for any specific area of government funding..”

environment agency letter

Full Text of Letter saying NO from David Gauke

Imagine my surprise then to see this press release  on the same day from the Environment Agency.

Environmental charities receive over £1.5 million from businesses which broke environmental laws

This revealed :

“There are 26 Enforcement Undertakings on the new list with payments ranging from £1,500 – £375,000, including 6 companies that have agreed to make 6 figure payments: ( among these were)

  • Northumbrian Water Limited (£375,000) for pumping raw sewage into a tributary of the River Tyne.
  • Filippo Berio UK Limited (£253,906.91) for failing to recover or recycle packaging waste.
  • Anglian Water Services Limited have made two separate payments (£100,000 and £100,000) both for causing pollution incidents which killed fish.

Among the beneficiaries were the Nene Country Park in Northamptonshire and river trusts  on the Tyne. The list of enforcement undertakings is published here:https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/enforcement-undertakings-accepted-by-the-environment-agency

It shows a much wider group of people have benefited.

So I wrote back to the minister which led to this reply last week from Department for Environment and Rural Affairs.

Yes they had been able to do this since 2015 – by accepting Enforcement Undertakings to cover river pollution rather than taking companies to court.

The court case involving Thames Water was in 2016. But here’s the rub -because the pollution took place in 2012 and 2013 it was not covered by the change in the law.

david gauke letterTwo points from this tragic state of affairs. First I am surprised by the ignorance of David Gauke that as a Cabinet minister he didn’t know his own government had changed the law.

Second it seems very unfair the Wendover Arm Trust has lost out. Perhaps pressure should be put on Thames Water – who has just been fined for polluting the River Thames – to give a donation to the trust. And certainly  if they repeat this pollution immediate representation should be made to the Environment Agency for an Enforcement Undertaking so money can be handed out to the trust in future.

 

Election 2015: Fear triumphs over hope

David Gauke, prediicted the Tories would have a small working majority last Saturday

David Gauke, prediicted the Tories would have a small working majority last Saturday

Last Saturday in Berkhamsted market  treasury minister David Gauke, my local Tory MP now safely re-elected, told me five days before polling day, that the Conservatives would be returned with a small working majority.

At that time people said to me” he would say that, wouldn’t he? ” but Gauke had picked up, presumably from constituency returns, that the Liberal Democrats were doing badly. As the main challengers to the Tories in Herts South West he might take an interest even though his seat is one of the safest in the country. And he would know that many Liberal Democrat seats were vulnerable to the Tories and that Labour had more or less had it in Scotland.

As it turns out whether he had a crystal ball or not he was right – even though the opinion polls said the result was too close to call. Yet they all showed that a lot of people were still undecided.

What appears to have happened is that  enough undecided people on the way to the polling station appear to have bought the idea that they had to keep the government in power  to ensure that the “recovery ” continued and probably thought  ” I am just about OK” not to risk a change. A substantial minority – the UKIP vote – were so disillusioned about Westminster politics – that they were happy to vote for them  and damn the consequences. And it seems quite a number were ex Labour rather than Tory voters. and certainly that applied in Scotland where Labour seemed to have lost the plot.

Labour had offered the hope of a fairer society, more support for the NHS, and some controls on vested interests like private landlords and energy companies. Both Labour and the Tories  said there would be more unspecified cuts while the Tories promised to legislate to stop tax rises. But I suspect that people did not want to risk it because of these uncertain times.

I suspect many people think these “cuts”won’t affect them – only welfare scroungers and immigrants. I  think they will be in for a very big shock because there is no way the books can be balanced without much wider reductions if not removal of services. Local government, social care, benefits for disabled people, all are likely to be hit and there is no need now for a government in power for the next five years to bother with higher pay rises for public sector workers. There will also be a bonanza for private  firms to take over the rest of the work of the state and fraught referendum on Europe and a resentful relationship between England and Scotland.

Labour will have to do some new thinking on how it is going to offer a vision to attract people to vote for them – or be squeezed between UKIP and the Greens. Otherwise the prospects for 2020 will be even worse than now after the new  more equal constituency boundaries come into play and reduce their Parliamentary representation even further.

There is a very bumpy road ahead for this government with a small majority and a controversial manifesto to implement  but an equally bumpy road for all opposition parties as a result of today’s shock result.

Reported to HMRC:The £100,000 a year Treasury minister too poor to pay an intern

David Gauke MP, the Treasury minister who wants his intern to work for free for at least six months

Today the website graduatefog reports that David Gauke has been reported to HM Revenue and Customs for being in breach of the minimum wage legislation for offering an unpaid ” training post” in his constituency. As readers of this blog know this is not the first time he has had advertised for a six month unpaid vacancy. So perhaps HMRC should take other recent appointments into consideration.+
Since this blog appeared Mr Gauke has attacked as ” morally repugnant” people who pay cash to builders, cleaners etc. if they beleive it is part of tax avoidance. But presumably this does not arise for his interns – as they work for free anyway.

After a Budget that gave  tax cuts for the rich and pay freezes and job losses for the poor, step forward, David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, forced to answer questions on the pasty tax U turn today. He is the man who will oversee the tax cuts in the new finance bill and has overall responsibility for HM Revenue.and Customs. He is also in charge of policing the minimum wage when unscrupulous employers avoid paying staff ( you couldn’t make this up)

His big contribution to help Britain  moving is to offer one new personal job at his constituency office in Rickmansworth, Herts. There is only one problem. You need to either have rich parents ( who will give you an allowance) or a lot of inherited wealth.  There is no pay and you must be Tory inclined( and obviously believe working for free is a good Tory policy)

The advert is here. http://bit.ly/AlHBho

As a minimum condition you must work for him for  nothing for six months  if not a year or more and you better have at your own expense, learnt advance computer skills ( doesn’t sound that Mr Gauke is computer savvy).
As it says: “Duties will include administration, basic correspondence, diary management, fundraising, campaigning and related tasks. The intern will also have the opportunity to work one day a week in the Westminster office.”

Now I understand as his constituent that Mr Gauke is very hard up. He only has an income of just over £100,000 a year – with his £98,750 salary and he claims from the taxpayer a London living allowance of £3379.15 a year ( desperate problem for MPs having to pay for higher London prices except for the taxpayer paid subsidised food in Parliament)

Funnily enough his expenses paid by the taypayer for the last financial year come to almost the same £98,680.93 as his salary including some £78,000 on staff ( presumably in Westminster rather than Rickmansworth), another £9000+ on accommodation and £10,000+ on administration. So the poor man only has £200,000 going through his accounts.

Then there are his two homes to maintain by Tory standards well below any mansion tax level. But  poor man,since this terrible crackdown on  Mps expenses he has had to lose  such a lot.  He did grab £15,000 a year  in mortgage interest payments ,a  quarterly £687 maintenance charge and car parking fees- all paid  from the  taxpayer on his Westminster Bridge Road apartment in London which he paid  £285,000 in 2007.  Mind you he has had a £30,000 rise in his income since the coalition came to power.

Incidently none of this latest expenses information is on his personal website – which  on this issue doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2009. No doubt this will be done free of charge by his new employee.

What one might have expected from a government with one million young people on the dole – is that Mr Gauke might have just gone down to the Watford or Hemel Hempstead dole office- and given a leg up to some Tory inclined youngster on the dole. Or he might  like many other Mps in his party just decide to pay a minimum wage to one of the newly unemployed graduates. But obviously paying £6 an hour would send him and his wife to the bankruptcy courts. For Mr Gauke, it is not Greed is Good  but Exploitation is Excellent.

Perhaps as a resident of Berkhamsted in his constituency we should launch an appeal for the cash stricken Treasury minister or send food parcels to his new recruit so he can at least survive on an egg sandwich.

Internaware  who campaign at @internaware against exploiting interns are not impressed. Gus Baker said: “Revenue and Customs have set up a hit squad to enforce the minimum wage for interns and yet the minister in charge is refusing to pay the people in his own office.

“David Gauke… is also putting an opportunity out of the reach of the vast majority of young people who can’t afford to work for free.

“At a time of high youth unemployment when young people desperately need to demonstrate experience on their CVs, this is completely irresponsible.”

Mr Gauke is very comfortable with this. He told BBC News which followed this up : “It’s advertising for a post for volunteers. Lots of people want to do it. It’s good experience.

“It involves visiting my local Conservative Association, getting some experience of Westminster.

“I think that’s perfectly reasonable and those that have had the experience of working there have enjoyed it and found it very good experience.”

Anyway for those who want to tell him what they think his e-mail at Parliament is gauked@parliament.uk  and the constituency office address for food parcels is Scotsbridge House
Scots Hill, Croxley Green,Rickmansworth Hertfordshire WD3 3BB.