Tag Archives: politics

UK Foreign Office racks up mother of all bank charge for late bill payment – just £124,970.08!

You might have got a charge for late payment of your credit card, but it’s probably nothing compared to the £124,970.08 charge that the British foreign office appears to have racked up.

The official response to a freedom of information request has outlined a series of so-called ‘fruitless’ payments made by the British government’s foreign and commonwealth office.

They include a £124,970.08 late bill settlement charge relating to expense and procurement cards supplied through a contract with the Royal Bank of Scotland. This is what the text of the FOI response says:

‘Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) charges incurred between 10th March 2015 and 4th March 2016 for late payment of expense and procurement card statements.

‘The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has a contract with Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to supply expense and procurement cards. Late settlement of the bill in full led to an interest charge allowable under the terms of the contract. However, the FCO receives regular rebates from RBS under the contract which have saved the taxpayer a sum very many times the value of this charge over the last five years.’

Action taken by foreign office

It goes on: ‘The payment was deemed fruitless because the FCO made payment that brought no benefit to the FCO. We can confirm that an independent investigation took place and that appropriate action was taken.

‘To prevent a reoccurrence of this issue, immediate action was taken – the FCO now has payment by Direct Debit for all its RBS expense and procurement cards, and our card payments control has been further strengthened by implementing two new additional monthly checks..

You can read about other ‘fruitless’ payments made by the foreign office here.

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How Theresa May hailed the ‘special relationship, but not the one you’re thinking of – click here to read the story

Three women aged 80+ serving prison sentences in England & Wales

There were 223 men aged 80 or over serving sentences, as at 30 September 2016, according to official figures.

The information was released by the government in response to written question laid in the House of Lords by Labour peer Keith Bradley.

The answer also warned that the figures had been drawn from administrative IT systems, which as with any large scale recording system were subject to possible errors with data entry and processing.

Thousands of over-60s are the fastest growing prisoner age group behind bars, according to recent Guardian article.

Time twins: Mark Carney and Sean Connery

On the left is one of the coolest James Bond’s ever, while on the right is the Bank of England governor. Or should that be the other way around…

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British PM Theresa May hails ‘special relationship’ & no, it’s not the one with the US

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‘Brightest and best’ civil servants WILL staff Brexit ministry at 9 Downing St – including from Boris Johnson’s foreign office

Photo credit: Mark Carney (Bank of England), Sean Connery (By Mieremet, Rob / Anefo – Nationaal Archief, Nummer toegang 2.24.01.05 Bestanddeelnummer 927-7001, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44312571)

I’ve met David Cameron and Theresa May – and they are very different characters

The outgoing prime minister was charming and well-mannered whenever I met him, and gave the impression of being calm under pressure.

He might not have had Tony Blair’s incredible ability to make you feel like you were the only person in the room, which I saw first hand in the 2005 general election. But neither did he have the brooding character of Gordon Brown.

Right! Good!

David Cameron has an easy affability, he’s a good sort of chap. The type that your mum would love to be your friend (unless they’re die-in-the-wool opponents). The outgoing prime minister was also fond of the quip, but perhaps his character was given away by his announcement today that he would be gone by Wednesday!

A Liberal Conservative

At that first Rose Garden press conference with coalition partner Nick Clegg, there was something of a bromance and joshing, and ribbing between the pair. He was a huge contrast when he arrived in No 10 to Gordon Brown in the dog days of the last Labour government.

I always got the feeling that Mr Cameron was a liberal conservative, so his support for gay marriage was telling.

Libya

As a political editor based in Westminster for several years, I remember well a lunch for political journalists based in the UK parliament that Mr Cameron was the guest speaker at. It was interrupted by news that Gaddafi had been captured by rebel forces in Libya. The prime minister obviously had to leave as the news filtered through.

Subsequent events following his decision to join the international intervention against the Libyan dictator have led some to question the effectiveness of Mr Cameron’s actions.

Europe

For all his initial attempts to re-position the Tories, it was Europe that ultimately led to his downfall as it had for previous Conservative prime ministers. His decision to call a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, seen partly as an attempt to stave off the electoral threat from Nigel Farage’s Ukip party, will go down as a defining moment in history.

After getting his deal from Brussels, Mr Cameron fought from the front in the referendum campaign –  which is perhaps to be admired rather than lowing low as other leading lights of the UK cabinet chose to do.

Ultimately, he lost the referendum and his job. Whether he could have got a better deal, and thus won the referendum, will forever be a what if deal.

But there’s no doubt that Mr Cameron will be an historic prime minister, leading a coalition government and then calling a fateful referendum.

Theresa May – the ‘Ice Maiden’

Britain’s next prime minister Theresa May is definitely a different character to Mr Cameron. The current home secretary, who I’ve met, is recognised as not being particularly clubbable.

Mrs May’s attitude could be seen as aloof, but maybe she was wisely keeping her distance and simply didn’t feel the need to be over-friendly. Can you see her getting the moniker, call me Theresa like Call me Tony?

She didn’t appear too bothered to curry favour. Just take a look at the police, when she urged their union that they had to change. Nick Clegg reportedly even reportedly called her the ‘Ice Maiden’, so you get something of the impression that Mrs May portrays.

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‘There’s an obvious reason why I’m not part of the old-boys’ network — I’m not an old boy. I’ve always taken the same approach in every role I’ve played, which is I’ve got a job to do, let’s get on and deliver,’ she told London’s Evening Standard a few days.

Perhaps, just perhaps that’s a good thing in these times . Oh, and there’s a Labour leadership election happening too…

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Iceland could just decide Britain’s European future

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The nationalisation of UK steel would have Thatcherite credentials

Photo: David Cameron gave a speech outside Number 10 Downing Street on 24 June 2016, following the EU referendum announcement that the UK had voted to leave the European Union. Photo: Crown Copyright Credit: Tom Evans

Ultimate Thick of It job title – appointment to Labour Shadow Cabinet: SSoSfBI&S&SLPotC&C&EC


21 across. Clue: the longest abbreviation of a Shadow Cabinet member ever….
News of fresh appointments to Jeremy Corbyn top Labour.team produces this.

Did Britain’s Foreign Office once spend JUST £7 on diplomats’ ceremonial dress for a whole year?

Who says civil servants can’t be thrifty – back in 2008-9, £7 went on altering existing, or purchasing new, diplomatic uniforms, according to a freedom of information release.

That compares to £9,783.00 for 2014-15, according to figures released by the UK’s foreign and commonwealth office following a freedom of information request.

Keeping costs down

“To keep costs to a minimum the FCO also, wherever possible, re-uses uniforms rather than purchasing new ones,” said the foreign office.

“According to our records, the following has been spent on altering existing, or purchasing new, diplomatic uniforms in each financial year since 2007/08.”

Here’s the full rundown:

ceremonial dress FCO 2016

The foreign office’s response also set out which UK diplomats are required to wear ceremonial dresses.

“Diplomatic uniforms are currently required for certain roles in the United Kingdom where FCO staff work in support of Her Majesty The Queen and in some countries where the British Ambassador is required by local protocol to wear diplomatic uniform to represent the UK at ceremonial occasions,” said the foreign office.

And it gave the list of such roles:

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The director and deputy director of protocol are foreign and commonwealth officials who are also members of the royal household as vice marshal and assistant marshal of the diplomatic corps.

While the foreign office doesn’t hold information on how many individuals were issued diplomatic uniforms over this period – although they usually serve three to four years in a particular role.

The figures also don’t include uniforms issued to governors of British overseas territories, which if uniforms are issued are paid for by the relevant overseas territory government.

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£323 MILLION spent on converting schools to academies

By David Johnson [1] (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.0 uk (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/uk/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Revenge is a pasty best served cold…. IDS vs Osborne

 

£323 MILLION spent on converting schools to academies

“There have been 4,897 academy conversions during the current and preceding five financial years,” according to education minister Edward Timpson.

“During the same period, the department has spent £323 million to support schools to become academies.”

The figures were set out in a parliamentary written answer in response to  question from Birmingham Labour MP Jess Phillips and come as the government pushes to turn all English schools into academies.

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EU backs UK’s HS2 high-speed rail network with hard cash

Cultural bias? Nearly 98% of senior DCMS civil servants based in London…

 

Revenge is a pasty best served cold…. IDS vs Osborne

It’s the way the pasty crumbles for Chancellor George Osborne tonight after Iain Duncan Smith resigns as work and pensions secretary.

Mr Duncan Smith quit over disabled benefit changes just days after the Budget – although there are suspicions about whether the Tory infighting over Brexit could be an underlying factor as well.

But in  his resignation letter, Mr Duncan Smith wasn’t backwards in coming forwards when it came to having a go at Mr Osborne and the Treasury.

“Too often my team and I have been pressured in the immediate run up to a budget or fiscal event to deliver yet more reductions to the working age benefit bill. There has been too much emphasis on money saving exercises and not enough awareness from the Treasury, in particular, that the government’s vision of a new welfare-to-work system could not be repeatedly salami-sliced.”

“It is therefore with enormous regret that I have decided to resign.”

The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg in her analysis tonight, said: “There has been animosity between the chancellor and Iain Duncan Smith for some time.”

For some reason, it reminded me of pasties and the now infamous pasty tax in the omni-shambles budget from a few years ago that quickly unraveled.

Mind you, it looks like David Cameron has lobbed one back at Mr Duncan Smith in his reply to his colleague’s resignation letter – oh and confirming a u-turn or at the very least a kick into the long grass over the disability benefit changes.

“We all agreed that the increased resources being spent on disabled people should be properly managed and focused on those who need it most.

“That is why we collectively agreed – you, No 10 and the Treasury – proposals which you and your department then announced a week ago.

“Today we agreed not to proceed with the policies in their current form and instead to work together to get these policies right over the coming months.

“In the light of this, I am puzzled and disappointed that you have chosen to resign.”

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Cultural bias? Nearly 98% of senior DCMS civil servants based in London…

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If UK quits EU, could it save up to “£102 MILLION’ on no more Euro elections?

Cultural bias? Nearly 98% of senior DCMS civil servants based in London…

Capital also takes £26 per head of key arts funding – double the amount for the region with the next largest proportion of funding per head.

The figures released to parliament will reignite the debate about devolution, spending and whether the UK and in England in particular is over-centralised and focused on London to the detriment of the other parts of the country.

Sheffield Heeley Labour MP Louise Haigh uncovered the statistics about senior civil servants at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) through a written parliamentary answer.

Ed Vaizey, a DCMS minister, responded: “On 1st March 2016, 97.8% of senior civil servants and 98.7% of core policy civil servants employed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport were based in London.”

Mr Vaizey also replied to a separate written parliamentary question from Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland, with the Liberal Democrat MP asking how much per capita Arts Council England is spending in each region in 2015-16.

Mr Vaizey released the following table outlining ACE investment by region, and spend per head in 2015/16:

2015-16 YTD TOTAL Spend per head
East £35,558,838 £5.91
East Midlands £28,393,349 £6.12
London £222,182,958 £26.02
North East £34,153,682 £13.04
North West £65,878,044 £9.24
South East £45,263,359 £5.10
South West £45,805,668 £8.45
West Midlands £70,442,158 £12.33
Yorkshire £58,586,846 £10.93

He also said: “In May, Arts Council England (ACE) announced they will increase the percentage of Lottery funding distributed outside London from 70% to 75% by the end of 2018; and invest over £35 million in the Ambition for Excellence fund – over £31 million of which will be spent outside London.

“There continues to be a shift in spending on National Portfolio funding away from London. In London, £26.02 is spent per head in 2015/16 – compared with £29.74 in 2009/10, when the Hon Member’s constituents in Yorkshire received £8.00 per head, compared with £10.93 this year.”

Of course, London is the biggest city in the UK and is an important national and international cultural hotspot – and it may not be as black and white. But the figures are none the less interesting and raise questions about funding for the regions at the very least…

 

Britain may have spent £55 MILLION on RAF missiles attacking Daesh in Iraq and Syria

More than 1,000 missiles fired by Royal Air Force during action over Iraq and Syria, UK government confirms.

Here’s the breakdown from September 2014 in Iraq and from December 2015 in Syria up until 24 January 2016:

missiles 2016

The figures were provided in a written parliamentary answer by defence minister Penny Mordaunt in response to a question by shadow labour defence minister Emily Thornberry.

Cost of missiles

Various news organisations have come up with estimates of the cost of this weaponry.

Here’s what an article from The Guardian from 2014 put the costs at:

“The RAF Tornados, based in Britain’s base at Akrotiri in Cyprus, can fire radar-guided anti-armour Brimstone missiles, which are conservatively estimated to cost £100,000 each; heavier Paveway IV bombs, estimated at £30,000 apiece.”

A more recent article from Bloomberg Business reported a higher cost for Brimstone missiles from December 2015, reported:

“The missiles, which cost 175,000 pounds ($263,000) apiece, can be fired from seven miles away and are able to switch to another objective even after launch. Steerable fins guide the supersonic approach, with the impact detonating two warheads, the first of which overcomes so-called reactive armor so that the main charge penetrates the target.”

Back in 2012, The Economist reported:

“The Hellfire, an air-to-ground rocket that weighs a mere 50kg, is $115,000 a pop.”

That equates to £79,651.20.

So, using these figures if 318 Hellfires have been used that equals £25,329,081.60

For 126 Brimstone missiles, the cost could be £12,600,000 (based on a unit cost of £100,000).

For 574 Paveway IV weapons, the cost could be £17,220,000.

Overall, that would be £55,149,081.60.

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Royal Navy officers still trained to navigate by the stars

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British naval tankers to be built using foreign steel

(Main image: By P. S. Burton [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)