Sunday, December 10, 2006

Recent Bonfires- 43

The UN building... no wait... this is another of their buildings... in Vienna

In the news this week:

UN HQ renovation hits £1bn- "The United Nations is facing fresh accusations of bureaucratic incompetence after the disclosure that renovation costs for its vast New York headquarters have rocketed to nearly £1 billion... The spiralling figures involved have astonished New York property moguls such as Donald Trump, who claimed that the costs were being pushed up by "incompetents". "It's the most ridiculous construction development I have ever witnessed," he said. "It's being run by a bunch of incompetents, and it's a disgrace to this country. It should cost $700 million, but I bet it will now end up costing $3.5 billion." Meanwhile, Ban Ki Moon, the South Korean diplomat who is due to take over from Mr Annan in the New Year, will spend the first nine months of his tenure in a hotel while his Manhattan residence receives a $4.3 million makeover." (Sunday Telegraph 10.12.06)

£210,000 Labour tax dodge- "The Labour Party has been accused of depriving taxpayers of hundreds of thousands of pounds in stamp duty in the sale of its London headquarters, despite the Chancellor's clampdown on stamp duty avoidance schemes in his mini-budget last week.... Labour sold its Westminster headquarters this year using a specially created company. The device... cost the Treasury about £210,000 in lost stamp duty. Had the property been sold on its own, the buyer would have had to pay £240,000 in stamp duty but by selling the company which owned it, the purchaser would have to pay only £30,000 - 0.5 per cent in stamp duty instead of 4 per cent... The transaction contradicts Gordon Brown's stated aim to stop stamp- duty avoidance schemes. Last week, the Chancellor announced "a package of measures aimed at ensuring ... that all individuals and companies contribute their fair share to the provision of public services". (Independent on Sunday 10.12.06)

£24,000 on another council rebranding- "A NEW Worcester city council logo set to cost at least £24,000 has been dubbed a "needless waste of money" by a taxpayer who was consulted on it beforehand. A group of residents sitting on the city council's citizens panel' got to see numerous attempts at a new logo before the final version was revealed... Paul Curtis was shocked that the council was going to go ahead with a new green logo in January. One of 10 people on the panel, he said: "A number of the panel felt there was nothing wrong with the present logo and any additional spending on this sort of frippery was just another needless waste of money. I believe we have here another council department with little to do except to find ways of inflating their own importance and wasting money." The exact cost of the re-branding exercise has yet to be determined." (Worcester News 30.11.06)

£350,000 image junkets- "Taxpayers are funding a £350,000 globetrotting tour that is intended to improve the "image of British Muslims" around the world. The Foreign Office has dispatched parties of up to eight Muslims as far afield as Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan, so they can "share their experiences" with locals. The groups have been staying in exclusive hotels and even flown business class on some legs, with all accommodation and travel expenses met from the public purse.... The visits are funded under a Foreign Office programme called Engaging with the Islamic World Group, which has an £8.5 million annual budget and a staff of 26. In May, according to Bangladeshi media reports, a member of the British delegation claimed at a press conference in the capital, Dhaka, that if an equally-qualified Hindu and Muslim applied for the same job in Britain, then the Hindu would be three times more likely to land the job." (Sunday Telegraph 10.12.06)

£270,000 charity subsidy for non-charity- "The controversial Church of Scientology has been granted a subsidy of more than £270,000 a year in public money. Scientology's lawyers used European rulings and Government equality regulations to force the City of London corporation to grant an 80 per cent rates discount for its new centre near St Paul's Cathedral. The "church", it is believed, is now pressing to pay nothing at all. The corporation confirmed that this discount was on the basis that Scientology is a "charity", despite the fact that the Charity Commission has refused to register it. The discount, referred to as a "mandatory rate relief", has been granted even though the Church of Scientology has estimated global assets of $398 million (£203 million), is supported by film stars including Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and was once described as "corrupt, sinister and dangerous" by a High Court judge." (Sunday Telegraph 10.12.06)

Total for week- £1,000,854,000


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