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Energy companies snatch £1.2 billion in overpaid bills

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Issue 2375

One of Britain’s six biggest energy firms ramped its bills up by a massive 8.2 percent last week. SSE will be followed by British Gas, EDF, Scottish Power, EON and Npower. SSE bosses tried to lay part of the blame for the rise on increased wholesale prices. But the amount it pays for power has stayed around the same. 

Energy giants sit on £1.2 billion a year belonging to customers in credit because of estimated bills. And they make more than £12 million annual interest from people who pay by direct debit.

Consumer watchdog Which? estimates that, after a year, 56 percent of direct debit payers are in credit by about £161.

A fair interest rate and not avoiding tax 

Legal loan shark Wonga has moved key parts of its business to Switzerland. The firm doesn’t offer loans to people in Switzerland. But Wonga’s main British arm paid £38.5 million last year to its sister company there.

The company says this is not to avoid tax. Wonga’s annual interest rate is 5,853 percent. Its profits have quadrupled in two years to hit £62.6million last year. 

Wonga’s British trading company, WDFC UK Limited, paid £38.5 million in 2012 to Swiss sister company WDFC SA. Last year Wonga transferred the ownership of its trademark from its UK parent company to the Swiss subsidiary. 

This included “computer software for enabling financial transactions”. This could see Wonga paying “royalty” fees every time a loan is issued. That would be tax deductable in Britain. Foreign firms can pay as little as 1 percent tax on profits in Switzerland.

Pointless pay rise for Gove’s adviser 

Michael Gove’s top adviser claims that a child’s ability at school is dictated by their genetic make-up. Dominic Cummings admits that his boss’s policy on free schools means some schools will have “predictable disasters, from disastrous teaching to financial fraud”.

Cummings thinks money for Sure Start childcare schemes and “pointless” university courses is a waste. He condemns teachers by insisting that “real talent is rare and mediocrity is ubiquitous” among their ranks.

His comments are contained in a rambling tract. One bit of spending that was pointless was the £11,000 pay rise the soon-to-depart adviser got in June. The 19 percent pay rise lifted him to £69,000. Before becoming a public servant Cummings worked for the Spectator website where his contribution was to publish racist cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.

VAT’s got to hurt lobbyist

Jacques Borel, the man lobbying the government to lower VAT for hospitality businesses such as Heineken and Punch Taverns, has been fined £9,201 for late payment of his own VAT.

Not even Borel’s accountants noticed the anomaly, revealed in the latest filings for his campaigning body, the VAT Club. But, ever hospitable, Borel says the fine— which he is “negotiating” —will be sorted out “by the end of the year”. Or the deadline, as the tax office prefers to call it.

Tory plan not started, but is a ‘success’

A £50 MILLION scheme to open GP surgeries later and at weekends is in disarray, just weeks after its launch. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the Tory party conference that a pilot scheme running in Manchester was a success. 

But an investigation by medical journal Pulse, scrutinised Hunt’s plan for GP practices to open late. Dr Ivan Benett, clinical director of Central Manchester Clinician Commissioning Groups, told the magazine, “We are aiming for the scheme to be operating by Christmas.”


Richard Branson, Tax exile and convicted fraudster

  • lQuitting Britain to live in a Caribbean tax haven
  • lHas used offshore boltholes, including the appropriately named British Virgin Islands, to minimise his tax bill
  • lBought up public companies—from trains to parts of the health service. 
  • lWas given the profitable bit of Northern Rock by the Tories 

The Tories spent more than £100,000 learning how to use Twitter. The Foreign Office forked out £92,594 to send officials on social media training.  

Meanwhile the government spent £51,355 on 92 flat screen TVs in the last two years. Business secretary Vince Cable’s department spent £20,000 on 14 TVs.

The Queen is set to receive an inflation-busting 22 percent pay rise over two years, according to new figures. The monarch is alleged to be “down to her last £1 million”, leaving her vulnerable to “unexpected costs”, a report has said.

She is now expected to be given £37.9 million in 2014-15 to keep the wolf from the door. That’s up from £31 million last year.

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