Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Warning: Bogus Callers in Kensington and Fairfield

Message from Sergeant Simon Joyce for local residents

I would like to bring to your attention that we have received a number of reports in the last 10 days of potential 'Bogus Officials'

Residents in the Needham Road area and Fairfield, L7 have reported that males and females are calling at addresses attempting to install Loft Insulation free of charge. The 'salespersons' have stated they are from different companies such as "Local Solutions", British Gas". British Gas have been unable to confirm if they have had people working in our area. The other two sound like they could bogus callers.

We are requesting residents to contact us immediately should they be suspicious of callers offering free loft Insulation or any other kind of service so that we can check of their validity! Fortunately and to our knowledge, nobody has yet allowed them into their house.

Contact Merseyside Police on 101 immediately

On 16th February we were working with Merseyside Residents Network in Needham Road distributing leaflets and fitting stickers, door chains and mirrors. This also involved working with a BBC film crew who are making programmes about Bogus Callers for a daytime programme which will be shown over the coming months.

Please circulate this information with other Councillors, business leaders, Church groups and to residents of Kensington, Fairfield & Edge Hill. We have been distributing posters to alert residents, your help will spread the word much quicker.



Simon Joyce Sergeant 5603

Kensington & Fairfield Neighbourhood Police Team Tuebrook Police Station Liverpool

L6 4BR

0151 777 4300

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

HMRC v UK Football: The match is heading for penalties

There are so many stories in the news at the moment about the tax man challenging football clubs, players and managers.

There are some clubs who have admitted to owing money which they have not paid;

Just this year, Heart of Midlothian were threatened with liquidation by HMRC on 7th Feb after failure to pay a late tax bill – for the third time in four years.

Portsmouth FC were issued a winding up order by HMRC earlier this year over an unpaid tax bill of £1.9m, with a further debt of between £4-£7m still being paid off from a previous regime.

Then there are clubs who are disputing their tax bills. Glasgow Rangers FC have voluntarily entered administration in an effort to avoid a winding up order from HMRC. The latter unsuccessfully lodged a petition for £9m and there is currently a tax tribunal decision awaited (by April) over a disputed bill plus penalties which could total a further £49 mill.

The Guardian reported in December 2011 that HMRC has issued 25 wind-up petitions to Football league clubs in two years. The revelation was made by Greg Mitchell QC, acting for HMRC. He said that in the past 24 months there have been 25 winding-up petitions against football clubs in the Football League. Some are repeat offenders, so it is not 25 clubs in trouble.
The debts principally owed to HMRC in football insolvency are PAYE and VAT. The latter particularly relates to player transfers, because at least in relation to domestic transfers VAT is always charged.
One of the biggest bones of contention between Football bosses and HMRC is the “football creditors' rule", which governs the way football clubs clear debts. The rule means that creditors from the football world are given preferential treatment when clubs enter financial difficulties. The debt owed to the taxman is of a secondary consideration, this not unnaturally infuriates HMRC who have been trying to overturn this rule in court for a long time.
Another area of conflict is the use of Employee Benefit Trusts to minimise PAYE costs. EBTs, which HMRC have long been fundamentally opposed to, are mechanisms once beloved of football clubs whereby high earning players had chunks of their pay put into an offshore piggy bank trust. Funds would be redistributed to players at times when it was tax advantageous to do so, like after retirement or if players became non-UK residents. This avoided the club, and the player having to pay NI or PAYE at 50% on that element, and deferred the tax charge until later, sometimes many years later, long after the benefit had been earned.
New HMRC rules which come into being in a few months time mean that any withdrawals from EBTs post April 2012 will attract full PAYE deductions, negating their value and worth to those taking them out. Furthermore HMRC gave all businesses – including football clubs - until December 2011 to report their schemes and formalise their arrangements.
It is thought by professionals, including football finance expert Dr Chris Brady that the HMRC has clubs firmly in their sites who may not have complied. He told The S*n newspaper “EBTs became popular with clubs as a means of reducing crippling wage bills. We believe at least eight current or former Premier League clubs are being investigated.”
The Daily Mail reported in January that HMRC’s High Net Worth Unit are investigating at least two dozen leading clubs to look at how perks are being dealt with for players like Rooney, Terry and Lampard through The Football Clubs Employment Issues Questionnaire. This questionnaire, which HMRC refuses to discuss with journalists, asks 181 questions of financial directors of clubs, including whether WAGs are on the payroll, the use of freebie match tickets and corporate hospitality for players and their families, accounting practices for testimonials, tax treatments of Man of the Match awards, Christmas Parties for the staff... Particular focus is bound to be targetted at the payment of foreign players.

The newspaper also revealed how players like Wayne Rooney at Manchester United are helping fund an Enterprise Zone in a Business Park in Newcastle upon Tyne to take advantage of tax relief, such are the lengths that these highly paid earners will go to, to avoid paying 50% PAYE.

And of course in the highest profile case of them all, two weeks ago former Portsmouth FC Manager, Harry Redknapp, former chairman Milan Mandaric and former Chief Executive Peter Storrie were cleared in court of tax evasion charges after a 5 year long investigation.

Redknapp was charged with secreting transfer bonuses in an offshore account in the full knowledge he should be paying tax but jurors unanimously found him not guilty.

It is believed that the cost of bringing the case may have cost HMRC £1.5million but in a statement, Chris Martin, HMRC’s Assistant Director, Criminal Investigations, said he had ‘no regrets’ about pursuing the case. It was, he said, ‘vitally important’ that the facts were put before a jury for their consideration’.

So there is no sign of a thawing in relations and nothing to suggest the tension and challenges won’t carry on unabated. We can expect UK football clubs to continue to be firmly in the target of the taxman.

And what of supporters? This is a real challenge for the country’s football fans. As voters they call for the Government to tackle large scale tax evaders and tax avoiders, with popular campaigns against Vodafone and Top Shop on High Streets across Britain and big support for Robin Hood taxes. They want to see a clamp down on tax evasion at a time when ordinary people are facing cuts in pay, income and local services.

Equally many fans decry the obscene salaries paid to top flight footballers and the huge transfer fees being asked for some players and want to see a return to more modest times.

It is when these two desires collide that it becomes a real challenge.

If it is your football club facing administration, being deducted points, maybe even being relegated, losing foreign players, struggling with transfers, it is inevitable that you will want to see the taxman’s focus shifted somewhere else and for your club to stave off collapse. (And conversely, we have all seen entries on football fan websites, hoping that a club that a fan’s team is traditionally competitive with, should go bust, never to be seen again. A rather unattractive and ultimately self-defeating Schadenfreude if ever there was one)

Abraham Lincoln reminded us that only two things are certain in life, death and taxes. And of course it was Bill Shankly who once said “Some people think football is a matter of life and death, but it is more important than that” and between those two stools, the conundrum will continue to sit.

Monday, February 20, 2012

It does get better - the L Project

Listen to it, download, let's get it to number 1.
It is a top song, I have been singing it all day.
Recorded by lots of very talented women and dedicated to all those who have suffered from homophobic bullying, particularly all the teenagers who have killed themselves in the UK as a result.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Holocaust Memorial Day Liverpool 2012

Once again I was honoured to be part of the Holocaust Memorial Day events in Liverpool for 2012. The annual day of remembrance takes place nationally on or around the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz Concentration Camp, January 27th.

Having worked with a small team on Kensington Remembers and then Liverpool Remembers, Kensington based commemorations over the last 4 years, this year for the second time, I was part of a small team of people who organised the event that took place on January 26th in Liverpool Town Hall at the invitation of the Lord Mayor.

Our programme was guided by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and the theme this year was "Speak up, speak out".

The theme asks us to think about the rights, responsibility and duty we all have to speak up when we see or hear something which we believe to be wrong. It challenges us to learn about what happens when we don’t speak out and what can happen when we do use our voice.

HMD 2012 looks at how we make a choice when to speak up and considers the dangers in both choosing to speak out and not speaking up and asks us all to speak up against injustice and hatred today. Using the famous Niemoller poem as an inspiration, the theme asks us to speak up today.

Incorporating those themes, and including the voices of children and young people which are very important to communities in Liverpool, our programme included singing of appropriate songs by choirs from King David High School, King David Junior School and Holy Cross RC Primary School.

We had prayers from Rabbi Mordechai Wollenberg, Childwall Hebrew Congregation who had immediately previously laid a wreath at the memorial in St John's Gardens with the Lord Mayor and representatives from Liverpool City Council.

We heard the world famous poem, "First They Came", written by Pastor Martin Niemoller, read by a pupil from King David High School. We had a minute silence to remember the victims and their families and descendants.

Mrs Inge Goldrein talked about her experiences as a young girl, who came to live with distant relatives in Merseyside and thus she personally avoided death, although the horrors of the round-up and murder of Jews across Europe meant that tragically she never saw her family again.

Max Steinberg OBE, Chief Executive of Liverpool Vision talked about the story of Dr Ludwig Guttmann. He was the founder of the Paralympics which will of course be held in England this year. He was a Jewish doctor who fled Germany in 1939 to seek refuge in England. His work with disabled people led him to establish the Paralympics. Dr Guttman spoke up for the rights of disabled people to be given the same opportunities in the sporting arena as other athletes.

And finally, to commemorate genocides and atrocities that continue to rage across our world, my friend and colleague from Liverpool Remembers, AimeClaude Ndongozi, formerly from Rwanda but now a resident in Liverpool, talked about his personal loss and experiences.

I have been particularly asked to reproduce his speech, and I do so below.

I am honoured to be with you on this Holocaust Memorial Day.
On this day, I am privileged to join you all in expressing our deep grief and our outrage over the terror, utter humiliation and despicable crimes committed against millions of innocent Jews by the Nazis.
I stand with the survivors and join in their voices and those of the whole human family affirming that humanity was diminished because of the evil they endured.
I also wish to salute the sacrifice in blood made by this country and others to defeat the Nazi’s death machine, to free the deportees from Nazi’s extermination and concentration camps and restore freedom to the shores of Europe.
The Holocaust was certainly the deepest humanity has ever sunk in its own contempt for human life and dignity.  It has left a scar, etched forever on the conscience of humanity. 
That is why we should never forget. We should not and we must not forget for the struggle to end oppression, discrimination, violence and atrocities, continues.
Despite the progress made in promoting human rights around the world, and despite our “never again” commitments, “man’s inhumanity to man” carries on, 67 years after the end of the Holocaust.
Today, we also remember men and women, victims of genocides and atrocities in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, Congo, Burundi and many other places.
On this day we remember that violence and brutality are still occurring in many parts of our World, often away from the world cameras, leaving behind desolation, immense pain and deep wounds.
I have personally shared at the bitter cup of suffering. I know what it means to lose loved ones to violence. I know the pain.
My father was killed in June 1994. His killers would not afford him a bullet. So he was stabbed and left to die in the pool of his own blood, in our backyard, where I grew up and played as a child. A place of happy memories became a place of death and mourning. His last words to me in the summer of 1993 were “Son, always sow seeds of goodness”. I hold dear this legacy.
My mother fled eastward and ended in a refuge Camp in Eastern Congo. Two years later, camps were attacked by Rwandan forces. My mother, my brother, my sister, her children and other refugees were tricked into joining a transit camp. But the trickery was an ambush from which they never came back. The camp was surrounded and bombed. In an attempt to erase all traces, the bodies were burnt.  No trace. No grave. Fortunately few people have escaped and stand today as witnesses of those horrors.
So for my loved ones’ sake, I can longer keep quiet before injustice, oppression, hatred and atrocities. I consider speaking up as the rent I pay for being alive. I intend to speak up for as long as God will give me breath.
But what I have on my heart is the opposite of hatred. Hatred destroys and causes so much pain and suffering. What is on my heart is love, the only cure of suffering I know of and in the words of Martin Luther King Jr. “the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend”. The love I am talking about is the intentional choice to be in the other’s shoes, to feel their pain, to endeavour to see the world from their perspective and to promote their dignity, simply because they are human beings.
I believe we all bleed when one part of humanity is wounded. So, my heart breaks for every victim of “man’s inhumanity to man”. My heart breaks for the 800 000 Tutsi who were savagely killed in the genocide by their neighbours turned into Hutu militia, for hundreds of thousands Hutu killed in Rwanda and Eastern Congo by the Tutsi army, for Congolese people killed in a war they had not started, for children robbed of their mothers and fathers, for men and women of all ethnic groups and for all the survivors still weeping for the loss of their loved ones.
Today, will you let go of your indifference? Will your “never again” become more than words? Or, will it become action rallies, speaking out with courage and fearlessness against genocide, violence, anti-Semitism, racism, extremism and discriminations, no matter where they are committed?
For some of us who have suffered the loss of our loved ones due to other people’s brutality and violence, I have a gentle word of warning. We know it hurts, we know the tears we have shed, we know the bleak nights we have spent and we know the clouds of despair we have had to fight to carry on.  I have come to understand that we can use our pain to hurt others or to heal them. How will you use your pain? As we call for justice, for we must; and as we fight impunity, for we must; let’s guard ourselves against diminishing the humanity of those who hurt us. Through our pain, maybe something new could be birthed: a passion for human dignity. Those who hurt us remain human beings and God’s children too. They too need love and healing. So, let’s pray for them. Let’s remember that we, like them carry the seed of evil, side by side with our capacity for good. Let’s remember that we are called to forgive and can and should and must forgive. I call this “the road least traveled”! But this narrow and rocky road leads to a wonderful renewal. A renewal which is the hope for our world! Oh, I know, this is not popular. It’s hard. But, with Desmond Tutu, I am convinced that that the “never again” commitment will not come to pass fully without forgiveness.
Will you stand and keep your candles of hope burning?
I too have a dream, that a world without oppression and atrocities is possible. But your contribution and mine are needed. Please do not go back from this event and live as usual. Would you take action, in your small way, in your schools, your university, your community, your shopping centre, your work place and your places of worship?
Let the 2012 Holocaust Memorial Day inspire us with the faith to dream a better, more tolerant world and the passion to change lives – against all odds. Let’s not be afraid. Let’s stand up and believe. Let’s make genocide history! Let’s red card all discriminations! And as we stand, May our loving God heal our sorrows and use us to heal others around us.
Thank you.  

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Liverpool Register Office moves to new home in St George's Hall

25 people joined the British family today in the first Citizenship Ceremony in the new Register Office in St George's Hall.  They were not only the first to take part in a citizenship ceremony in the beautiful new rooms in this magnificent building, but the first to take part in any kind of ceremony in the new suite, the first wedding will be held here next weekend.

(A couple of the citizenship ceremonies were held in the small ballroom during 2008 as part of the Capital of Culture, but not in these new ceremonial rooms. Likewise some weddings have taken place in St George's Hall by special licence, but in future, all civil marriages and civil partnerships will routinely take place here). 

The Superintendent Registrar and her staff have worked terrifically hard along with St George's Hall staff to ensure that the move from Old Hall Street went well and to have the rooms ready for this first official event.

With ten new offices and quiet rooms for the recording of births, deaths and marriages,  the coroners court and two ceremonial rooms (one traditional and one more modern, both with wonderful long reaching views across the city) this new home feels quite perfect, as though it should always have been there. Pat Dobie, the SR, told me on my visit last week to look round, prior to today's ceremony, that some brides have burst into tears upon realising that they would be married in such glorious surroundings.

There are bound to be some teething troubles as the first ceremonies are held, with people turning up at the wrong place, and as new Register office staff and old Heritage Centre officers become accustomed to each other and learn how to jointly inhabit the same space. But I am quite sure that the people of Liverpool will believe it only right that these most important moments in our lives are now being recorded in this cherished building.

St George’s Hall is arguably the most imposing and grand building in the city. Built between 1842 and 1854 it was both a law court and venues for music festivals. Queen Victoria described it as "worthy of ancient Athens"
It will be Charles Dickens 200th birthday next week, 7th February, and an event will be held here to celebrate his life. Dickens regularly used to give readings of his work at St George’s Hall, including a world premier of his classic book A Christmas Carol
The Hall was restored with money from the Heritage Lottery Fund and European Regional Development Fund, The Trustees of St George's Hall and Liverpool City Council, and most aptly reopened by HRH Prince Charles on St George’s Day 2007
Photograph: St George's Hall by Don McPhee/Guardian
Photograph: Louise with Carron Reppion and Chris Dillon, Deputy Superintendent Registrars, at today's ceremony

Handbags - What Do Women Want?

I was invited to attend a private viewing of “Handbags – What Do Women Want?” on Friday 27th January 2012, at The Women’s Organisation on St James Street, Liverpool

“Handbags- What Do Women Want”  is an exhibition of work by Eileen Walsh, an MA student at Liverpool Hope University’s Fine and Applied Arts Department.

Eileen is a friend from the Labour Party and she interviewed me, along with many other local women she knows, about my own relationship with handbags so I was particularly interested to see how the exhibition would come together.

There was a small collection of bags that she had bought and brought together, along with an array of the most fascinating bags that she had created herself, using symbolic materials that are related to gender and women's identities.
So there was a bag for instance made from kitchen clothes and a sink plug with chain

And one made from baby wool and marigold rubber gloves, with a teat fastener and a nappy pin handle
Some of the bags were quite menacing,  with hooks or made from sharp scratchy brillo pads, others expressed the joy of women working together in Trade Unions, and one celebrated the survivors of breast cancer.

A most thoughtful exhibition, I hope she gets a really great mark for it, lecturers please note!

And in a delightful little touch, every visitor to the exhibition was given a cup cake, decorated with a handbag motif, baked at campcupcake, a new shop on Smithdown Road
  “Handbags – What Do Women Want” is gender-based and concerned with the way the social and cultural environment constructs women’s identities and how women react to the structures and conditioning imposed on them. The exhibition aims to uncover personal narratives in women’s lives using the metaphor of the handbag, thus stimulating critical thinking that moves from the personal to the universal and questions the hegemonies that determine women’s lives. These ideas are explored through the mixed media of photography, sound stories, textiles and found objects.

The year of the Dragon, Chinese New Year 2012, Liverpool

Chinese immigrants established the first Chinatown in Europe in Liverpool in the 1860s. Last month we celebrated Chinese New Year with 25000 people in front of the wonderful Chinese Arch which commemorates the twinning of two cities, Liverpool and Shanghai.
The year of the Dragon was celebrated on 22nd January 2012 and people from all over the city came to enjoy the fun.

I haven't been before and although it was very cold, my friend Stan and I wrapped up warmly to watch the dragons dancing along Berry Street and these splendid examples, carried by young people,  being tamed in front of the Black-E in the shadow of the great arch.
It was great to see so many people out enjoying the spectacle and to watch the proud faces of the Chinese Business Community representatives standing outside some of the restaurants on Nelson Street, nodding to their friends as they walked by.