Posts Tagged ‘Land Registry’

Chunky Mark Asks What Cameron’s Legacy Will Be

July 14, 2016

This is another rant by the Artist Taxi Driver, in which he asks the question, what David Cameron’s legacy will be. He asks will it be the way he has given a banquet for the rich, and more poverty and misery for the poor, and then goes on to list nearly every wretched policy Cameron has passed, such as:

Shaming the poor on benefits, like the wretched TV show, Benefits Street, cutting services, selling off the libraries, parts of the fire service; the privatisation and marketization of the NHS; the academisation of our schools, tripling tuition fees, cutting benefits for the disabled; the work capability test, workfare, zero hours contracts, his shameless tax evasion and tax cuts for the rich, the Panama papers, the ability to lie without blinking, fracking, the Katie Hopkins-style demonization of refugees fleeing war in their homelands, including the vilification of those poor souls, who didn’t make it, and now lie dead at the bottom of the sea; state surveillance, selling people’s data, workers’ rights, the abandoning of human rights, Brexit and the consequent small-minded racist isolationism, knocking down social housing, a ‘home-owning democracy’, in which few, in fact, can afford their own homes; the sale of the land registry, and the land itself, to billionaires resident in the Cayman Islands; his relationship with Rupert Murdoch, Rebecca Brooks and Andy Coulson; a man sent to jail for stealing a Toblerone; another man dying of exposure after being evicted for squatting; being part of that whole Eton, Bullingdon-boy culture, and wandering around during the 2012 riots wearing loafers.

This is just about everything, absolutely everything Cameron has done and stands for. It’s a catalogue of just how much Cameron has brought down the country, although in fairness, it’s not all his fault. He’s just continued with the privatisation of the NHS, following on from Tony Blair, who followed on from Major, who took up where Thatcher left off. The work capability assessment was also another idea taken over from New Labour. And all the administrations since Thatcher, with the exception of John Major, were all over Rupert Murdoch. Major would have liked to have been too, but Murdoch switched his loyalty to the Warmonger of Islington.

What, therefore, is going to be David Cameron’s legacy? After this long, list of evil and iniquity, the Chunky One concludes that it’ll be Cameron inserting his private member into the mouth of a dead pig.

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Private Eye on Plans to Introduces Charges and Privatise Land Registry

April 27, 2016

This past fortnight’s Private Eye also has an article on the government’s plans to introduce charges for using the Land Registry, which they are also currently trying to privatise. Private Eye has covered the proposed privatisation in its ‘In the Back’ section, because of the threat this poses to freedom of information. The Eye has used the Land Registry to track some of the various companies holding vast chunks of land in our fair country back to offshore tax havens. The article runs

Cash Registry

No sooner has the last Eye gone to press, revealing the Land Registry’s plan to frustrate a supposed move towards transparency by charging thousands of pounds for information on offshore companies holding property, than business secretary Sajid Javid said the organisation would be privatised.

His time – as the Panama leaks again show the value of public access to who owns what land and property – was less than ideal.

There is no pretence that the sale, which will further threaten the 150-7ear-old body’s inclination to act in the public interest, is for any reason other than to raise around £1bn to reduce the national debt. This is about 0.06 per cent total government debt and far outweighed by the benefit that a publicly-owned, fully open register would provide in fighting tax evasion and corruption.

Javid claimed, with a straight face, that a privatised Land Registry would benefit from “private capital discipline” and that service would be protected by “key performance indicators” while creating “innovative, new products”. The people who use it, however, disagree fundamentally.

When the coalition floated the idea of farming the Land Registry out to a separate company in 2014, the response was resounding raspberry. Rejecting the plan, the government said: “91 percent of respondents did not acre that creating a more delivery-focused organisation at arm’s length from government would enable Land Registry to carry out its operations more efficiently and effectively.” Only 5 per cent thought it would.

Since most responses were from people working in the property business Javid now says he wants to serve, this was a resounding rejection of a step that was less dramatic than the privatisation now proposed. “Across the world, a trusted system of land registration is central to social stability and economic success,” said former Land Registrar John Manthorpe of the “misguided” plan.

So far one private equity group, Advent International, has expressed an interest. It already owns a number of businesses in the UK such as money transfer company Worldpay – not directly, of course, but through the tax haven of Luxembourg. Just the people for a “trusted system of land registration”.
(Private Eye, 15th-28th April, p. 1).

I don’t agree with the Eye’s conclusion that the privatisation is being done to pay off the debt. The money raised from the sale is too small to make any difference. It looks to me far more to be another ideologically-driven privatisation, done largely to provide their big business donors with yet another state industry. And the charging and privatisation is also being done to keep it out of the reach of the general public, who could use it to draw the highly embarrassing information about British capitalism and landownership that the Eye has done from using it.

‘I’ Newspaper Reports Cabinet Secretary Happy with Freedom of Information Legislation

December 23, 2015

Today’s ‘I’ newspaper has a report on page 4 that the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, who declared that some elements of the FOI Act have “a chilling effect” on the workings of government, is now ‘broadly happy with the way the current rules operate’. This is apparently despite the accusations that he has been accused of advocating that the public’s right to government information should be diluted under the current government review into its operation. The article also states that the Civil Service has also made no representations about the review.

I’ve repeatedly covered on here the struggle Mike over at Vox Political, and the efforts other disabled people and carers, to gain access to the figures on the number of people, who have died after being declared ‘fit for work’ by ATOS and their successor, Maximus. As I said in my last blog post, they have been repeatedly denied the information by the DWP. Their reasonable requests have been turned down as ‘vexatious’, and even when they have launched a successful appeal, the government has stonewalled, delayed releasing the information, appealed against the Information Commissioner’s decision, and finally deliberately supplied the wrong information.

Private Eye has also made an FOI request to gather information on the vast amounts of British land that is now held by offshore companies. And guess what? They have similarly been turned down on the grounds that their request is also ‘vexatious’.

This is not open government. This is a return to the kind of Whitehall secrecy that was regularly portrayed and lampooned in the classic comedy series, Yes, Minister. With the exception that we don’t have a premier as fundamentally well-meaning and likable as Jim Hacker, the bumbling Minister for Administrative Affairs. And even the Machiavellian and suavely devious Sir Humphrey was more benign in his way than the current crew of official bandits and snobs now in government. If Jeremy Heywood is happy with the way Freedom of Information Act operates, then this is hardly an endorsement. Quite the opposite. He is happy, because the government is denying people information.

Mike and the disabled have suffered it.
Private Eye is now suffering it.
Johnny Void has made it very clear that those campaigning against workfare have suffered it.

And the government has stated that they are opposed to giving the public information, as they use it to attack government decisions, when they should really be putting up with it all and simply use the information to understand how the decisions are made.

This is not ‘freedom of information’ under any except the most limited definition of the term. The cabinet and the senior civil service are natural elitists and authoritarians, who object to public involvement in government with every fibre of their being. As for the review into FOIA, it is being led by two of the worst authoritarians in government. One of these is the former Home Secretary, Jack Straw, who has stated that the Freedom of Information Act was a terrible mistake.

This is disgusting. The review should be terminated immediately. Or better yet, its members and leaders should be sacked, and a new one drafted, which would demand greater transparency. But that won’t happen until we get to the fundamental problem: the Conservative government and its wretched collaborators, like Heywood.

Private Eye Freedom of Information Request Turned Down as ‘Vexatious’

December 23, 2015

As most readers of this blog probably, Mike over at Vox Political and very many other disability activists have been trying to get the government to release the full figures for the numbers of disabled and chronically sick people, who’ve died after being declared ‘fit for work’ by ATOS and now Maximus. The DWP has been fighting their requests all the way. They have repeatedly turned them down as vexatious, stonewalled and dragged their heels, and then twisted the terms of the request so as to avoid supplying the information the sense of the request demanded. Mike and the others have persisted through this disgraceful process, launching appeal after appeal. This government under the Gentleman Ranker is determined to keep the figures of the people it has killed through its surreptitious eugenics cleansing under the guise of welfare to work.

And Mike and the disabled are very definitely not the only people to have their reasonable requests for information under the terms of ‘open government’ turned down. One of them is Private Eye. In recent months, the Eye has been concerned about the vast amounts of British land that is formally held by offshore companies, who pay no tax. They have built up an alarming picture of just how much is owned through requests made to the Land Registry under the Freedom of Information Act. Now they have hit the same wall as Mike and the others. Their requests for information have been turned down as ‘vexatious’.

The Eye describes their attempts to get the information, and the brush off they have received from the Land Registry. They write

As reported in Eye 1402, it [the Land registry] has refused our request for information on the thousands more properties bought by offshore companies since 2014, claiming the request is “vexatious” and the information is “reasonably accessible” by other means” – despite the “other means” being thousands of individual requests at £11 a time and demanding an army of supporting anoraks.

The Land Registry has also refused on the grounds that the information is Crown Copyright, and so exempt from the regulations. The Eye has then pointed out that as this would have made all information collected by the Civil Service exempt from FOI requests, that legal loophole has been ended. Like Mike and the disabled lobbyists, the Eye has launched an appeal to the Information Commissioner. But they state that if the Registry’s refusal is upheld, then Cameron’s professed commitment to open up government information to the public ‘will be so much hot air’.

See the Eye’s article, ‘Freedom of Information: Open Contempt’ in their Christmas issue, 19th December -7th January, page 39.

I wish the Eye all the best, but I think they will find Cameron’s promise exactly so much hot air. Cameron is a natural authoritarian and aristocratic elitist, who instinctively distrusts the proles and looks back to the glory days of the pre-1832 Reform Act. His ideal is an England where the proles meekly accept their station at the bottom of the social pile and touch their forelock to their masters and betters. Where he does support freedom of information, it’s purely to benefit business, not individuals.