Hospital that operated on wrong patient and left surgical instruments inside two others is investigated by watchdog
The health watchdog has been forced to take action against a hospital trust which performed a surgery on the wrong patient.
Within a month, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust performed four botched surgeries, including leaving instruments inside two patients and performing surgery on the wrong person.
Surgeons also operated on the wrong part of the body of another patient, the watchdog Monitor said.
The regulator said that since September 2011, eight ‘never events’ – instances which are never supposed to happen – have occurred at the trust, including four between September and October last year.
Monitor said it was stepping in because the trust has also failed to give cancer patients treatment in the recommended time.
There has been ‘successive failure’ to meet healthcare targets including waiting times for cancer treatment and accident and emergency performance, the regulator said.
A spokeswoman said the regulator has taken action to ‘improve the quality and organisation of healthcare’ for patients.
Monitor said that the ‘wrong person surgery’ related to a patient who had the wrong surgical lens fitted.
Several patients were attending the hospital for similar operations at the same time, a spokeswoman said.
The wrong lens was fitted to the wrong patient and then quickly removed – the patient did not suffer any ill effects, a spokeswoman said.
The watchdog has also raised concerns about the trust’s financial performance and the board’s capacity.
Monitor’s managing director of provider regulation Stephen Hay said: “This is not the first time we have called the Trust in to explain itself.
“We are disappointed that the Board has not resolved these issues. We note the trust has a new chair and will shortly appoint a new chief executive. We expect them to demonstrate they are getting the trust back on track as quickly as possible.’
The trust, which runs Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie hospital, has been ordered to commission a governance and effectiveness review. A board level ‘experienced turnaround expert’ should also be appointed, Monitor recommended.
Chairman Jane Ramsey stressed that the Trust was determined to reverse the situation and improve performance.
She said: ‘We take Monitor’s concerns very seriously and we are determined to reverse the situation as soon as possible.
‘My top priority, as the new chairman, will be to get to grips with these performance issues with my team and we will be setting up a task force to swiftly get back on track.
‘We will be focusing on turning this trust around, so once more we can be justifiably proud of our record as one of the leading trusts in the country.
‘We are working to improve our performance on meeting targets every month but we know we could do better. We are treating more people than ever before and our health outcomes are amongst the best in the country.
‘I am committed to retaining this achievement but also to meeting the standards that are required. Our priority remains the care of our patients – they are at the heart of everything we do.’
Epileptic girl, 17, who choked on her own vomit in a hospital bed ‘was ignored by two nurses’
Two nurses who ignored the plight of an epileptic girl who died after she inhaled her own vomit in a hospital bed face being struck off.
Lassania Aslam, 17, suffered five seizures in the space of 24 hours after being admitted to The Whittington Hospital in Archway, north London. But senior nurses Caroline O’Rourke and Mary Subaste failed to ensure she was looked after properly as the 17-year-old’s brain was starved of oxygen, a tribunal heard.
Subaste had witnessed two of Lassania’s fits, one of which lasted for six minutes. Lassania died four days later, with hospital neglect contributing to her death in March 2007.
They both face being struck off after the Nursing and Midwifery Council panel in central London found the nurses’ fitness to practice impaired by reason of misconduct.
Panel chair Michael Cann said: ‘The failure to ensure neurological observations were undertaken and recorded was a breach of duty of care serious enough to constitute misconduct.
‘Every patient must always be monitored and observed, and these observations recorded. This requirement is so basic that every nurse should be aware of it.
‘Not doing so makes it is impossible to accurately assess whether the condition of the patient is improving or deteriorating and make decisions on whether to call for medical intervention, which must be taken expeditiously.
‘The panel notes the coroner’s finding in this case that basic standards of practice for neurological observation were not followed.
‘While not attributing blame for the death, this observation serves to underline the potential risk to patients if standard observations are not undertaken.’
O’Rourke was in charge of the Medical Admissions Unit where Lassania, of Crouch End, north London, was taken after suffering two epileptic fits in Accident and Emergency.
She failed to ensure neurological observations were carried out after Lassania suffered a seizure at 12.10pm, on March 26, 2007, and did so again after a fit the next morning at around 7.40am.
Night shift nurse Subaste admitted failing to ensure observations were taken following three fits during the night.
Lassania, who had learning disabilities and was a long-standing sufferer of epilepsy, was admitted to the hospital at 5am on March 26, 2007 with vomiting and fever.
Both nurses have admitted they failed in the care that Lassania received in the days she before her death, on April 1.
An inquest in March 2008 into Lassania’s death heard admissions from hospital staff that basic care had not been given.
The 17-year-old had inhaled vomit after a seizure and had suffered irreversible brain damage.
The hearing resumed this week after being adjourned in August.
O’Rourke, who now works in a care home in Ireland, earlier told the hearing of her regret over the failures to properly care for Lassania.
She said: ‘I would have, looking back in reflection, not stood over the nurses but been near enough to be confident the patient was being looked after. ‘I would make sure the observations had been done, not naively expect them to have been done.’
Asked what she would do differently if she was working that shift again, she replied: ‘Everything.’
British social workers hang on to their control: Seven out of eight couples who try to adopt children are rejected
Only one in eight of the couples and individuals who try to adopt children are approved by social workers, official figures revealed yesterday.
The shocking statistics mean that more than 22,000 would-be adoptive parents vanish from the system every year.
The figures were made public for the first time by the schools and children inspectorate Ofsted. They were released just three weeks after the government-sponsored National Adoption Week called for thousands more people to come forward to adopt.
The Ofsted count showed that in the year which ended in March, 25,380 couples and individuals made inquiries about adopting a child. Of these, only 4,145 (16 per cent) went on to make applications to adopt a child. Even fewer – 3,048 – were actually approved as prospective parents by council or agency social workers.
The drop-out rate has been revealed at a time when ministers have promised to sweep away the barriers to adoption put up by social workers over the past three decades.
Parents have been regularly turned down because social workers insist on precise racial matches, and white parents are routinely rejected as adopters of black or Asian children. Potential parents are also turned down because they smoke, or are too old, or social workers say their health is not good enough.
The Ofsted breakdown, based on returns from councils and voluntary adoption agencies, gave the same figure as Whitehall for the number of children adopted from the care system last year – 3,450.
About 65,000 children live in state care, either in children’s homes or with frequently changing foster families. Children who grow up in care are likely to grow up with poor education and have a high chance of falling into drug abuse, crime or early pregnancy.
Despite regular warnings that adoption placements often break up, the Ofsted figures showed that there were only 115 ‘unplanned endings’ of adoption placements during the year.
The disappearance of the great majority of people who hoped to adopt a child provoked demands for explanations yesterday. Adoption researcher Patricia Morgan said: ‘How are you going to recruit people to adopt children if nobody knows why people are dropping out?
‘We are not being told whether people are being turned down or put off. We do not know what criteria are used to approve or reject people. We do not know to what extent the decisions are made on grounds of race, age, health or people’s opinions. We need to know.’
A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘We are making the adoption system as welcoming and helpful as possible so that those who want to adopt are supported and encouraged.
‘We are setting up a new national information service, called a gateway, for prospective adopters. ‘With a website and helpline from early next year, it will give a consistent service across the country. ‘The Government is reforming adoption to make the process swifter and place children in care with loving families.’
Ministers have promised to sweep away barriers to adoptive parents over recent months, and in particular they have said race rules will go.
The barriers to adoption have helped push down the number of children who find new families from 20,000 a year in the 1970s to few more than 3,000 now.
The Ofsted figures showed that 92 per cent of people approved to adopt were white, while 78 per cent of children in care and 85 per cent of children who are adopted are white.
Broke Britain: Supermarket chain forced to put lamb and even cheese in anti-theft security boxes
Decades of the welfare State bear fruit
Cheese and meat joints have been locked away in security-sealed boxes by a crime-hit supermarket in a bid to thwart hungry thieves. Crime-hit supermarket chain Iceland has resorted to using the ‘lamb saver boxes’, normally used to protect more expensive goods such as CDs, games and DVDs, which trigger an alarm if a shoplifter attempts to leave the store with meat products without paying.
The security tactic has been employed in hundreds of the chain’s stores across the UK. Checkout assistants at the stores have told customers the supermarket chain also plans to fix security tags to its cheese – or lock the dairy goods away from reach.
Iceland bosses said they had been forced into the ‘defence mechanisms’ to stop a growing number of hungry thieves pinching its stock.
But customers hit out at the precaution, while food charities interpreted the measure as ‘inevitable’ with many families struggling to make ends meet.
Shopper Simon Wightman said he was ‘saddened’ to to find the leg-of-lamb contained in security tagged boxes when he was doing a weekly shop.
The motorcycle store manager and father-of-three from Herne Bay, Kent, said: ‘I just think it is sad that people feel they have to steal from Iceland to survive. ‘What is the world coming to? When I saw them I couldn’t believe it.
‘Someone trying to swipe something expensive from Marks & Spencer you can almost understand, but pinching meat from Iceland? ‘What will they do next, an electric fence around the fish fingers?
‘When I laughed at the boxes, the woman at the check out even said they were planning to security tag cheese. ‘Apparently so many people steal it, they stuff it into their trousers and run out – its ridiculous.
‘You can understand them wanting the boxes because even when their security guards catch someone they can’t sell the food if its been stuffed down someone’s pants.’
Iceland, which like most food stores already fixes security tags to luxury items, such as expensive spirits, said its new measures were needed to maximise ‘availability.’
Spokeswoman for the chain Amy Globe, said: ‘The lamb saver boxes are used in several hundred Iceland stores and are designed to enhance the availability of the product for customers. ‘The boxes are designed to serve as a defence mechanism to reduce theft and thereby ensure there is maximum availability for customers.
She confirmed that the chain had been ‘trialing’ security boxes for bacon and cheese in some of their UK stores. She said: ‘The trial was run across some of our UK stores but didn’t prove as effective as the lamb saver boxes. ‘Lamb was our most targeted item as it is one of the most costly and popular items in store.
‘Therefore we have seen a dramatic reduction in theft since the boxes have been introduced.
‘The security boxes weren’t as noticibly effective on lesser items such as bacon and cheese therefore we are unable to confirm they will remain a permanent fixture in stores.’
Food charities said they had seen the need for food banks in certain areas of Britain double in the last year.
The Trussell Trust, part of the UK food bank network, said they weren’t shocked to see a rise in theft from the Iceland store, claiming some families are ‘desperate’ for food.
Some of the charity’s individual branches have reported more than a 30 per cent increase in people using food banks since the UK was hit by recession in 2009. More than 200,000 people across Britain are now known to be signed-up to food banks to feed their families.
Trussell Trust spokeswoman Molly Hodson said: ‘Parents will often go days without eating so they can feed their children but when they are faced with not being able to feed their two-year-old of course they turn to desperate measures.
‘Food banks are based in towns and cities across the country but we still don’t have enough and that is the worrying thing. ‘Families in the UK are struggling – the food banks are here to help and hopefully there for people so they don’t have to resort to stealing.’
British PM: Eurocrats must accept cuts to pay and perks
That will be the day ….
David Cameron is targeting European Union bureaucrats and their perks for the financial cuts that could clinch a budget deal in Brussels.
EU funding for new telecoms and energy networks could also be cut to find money for the farm subsidies that could persuade France to back a budget deal
The Prime Minister and other EU leaders are in Brussels trying to agree a European budget for the seven years from 2014.
Mr Cameron wants spending to be frozen, and has promised to defend Britain’s annual budget rebate. He is facing resistance from France, which is worried his plans could reduce spending on the Common Agricultural Policy. [i.e. heavily subsidized French farmers]
After his first meeting with senior officials at the budget summit, David Cameron has warned there is a “long way to go” to protect Britain’s rebate and limit EU spending.
The Prime Minister said the EU’s current proposals for spending cuts “do not go far enough”, after a meeting this morning with Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, and Jos‚ Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission.
He also made it clear to the Brussels officials that Britain would not accept any reduction to its £3 billion a year rebate negotiated by Margaret Thatcher to compensate for France’s agricultural subsidies.
Diplomats said the key issue for the summit is reconciling Mr Cameron’s insistence that the rebate remain unchanged with the French demand to preserve the CAP. One possible compromise would effectively see money taken from both EU’s administration budget and the “Connecting Europe” fund which is meant to pay for new telecoms, transport and energy networks. The European Commission’s administration budget for 2014 – 2020 is currently due to rise from Euro 56 billion to Euro 62.6 billion.
In Brussels, Britain is pushing for a smaller increase in Commission spending, suggesting that savings could be found by reducing the perks of EU staff. Mr Cameron is understood to have strong support from Germany and the Netherlands for cutting bureaucrats’ pay and allowances.
A particular target could be the “expat allowance” paid to non-Belgian staff based in Brussels. It adds 16 per cent to their tax free salaries, and is estimated to cost European taxpayers up to Euro 2 billion.
Mr Cameron believes the retirement age for European civil servants should be raised from 63 to 68 for staff under 58 years old, saving 1.5bn euros (£1.2bn) over the seven years of the proposed budget, a Government spokesman said.
The pay bill should be trimmed by 10 per cent, saving three billion euros (£2.4bn), and pensions should be capped at 60 per cent of final salary, down from 60 per cent – saving of 1.5bn euros (£1.2bn)
A Government spokesman said: “”These are not dramatic changes. The Commission (and other institutions) are telling the Greeks, Italians and others that they should put the retirement age up to 68. “In the UK, we have cut pensions to career-salary average.
“They (Mr Van Rompuy and Mr Barroso) argued it was very difficult legally to change people’s terms and conditions (in the EU civil service) – but we have managed it in the UK.”
British officials also suggested that cuts could be found in the Connecting Europe fund, which is is due to rise from Euro 8 billion to Euro 36 billion. British officials suggested that at least Euro 20 billion of that planned increase could be cut.
Cutting the fund could cause a backlash from Baltic states and Finland. It could also prompt accusations that the EU is choosing to spend money cosseting uncompetitive French farmers instead of investing in the infrastructure that could help the European economy compete in the 21st century.
Elio Di Rupo, the Belgian Prime Minister, used his arrival to attack Mr Cameron for his cuts calls. “We want an ambitious European budget,” he said. “It’s a shame that for the British, Europe is primarily a single market. For me, for Belgium, Europe is more solidarity and prosperity for all Europeans, so I will plead with somebody such as David Cameron for more an ambitious budget.”
However, after his first meeting this morning with Mr Van Rompuy and Mr Barroso, the Prime Minister’s office said the current proposals for cutting spending do not go far enough. “The Prime Minister set out our position that while the latest proposals were a step in the right direction they did not go far enough and that we think more can be done to rein in spending,” a Downing Street spokesman said. “He also set out the UK’s position on the rebate that it was fully justified and we did not support any changes.
“It was clear that there was a long way to go before we had a deal that reflected the difficult decisions being taken by member states. “As the Prime Minister said this morning, we are going to be negotiating very hard for a good deal for Britain’s taxpayers and Europe’s taxpayers and to keep the British rebate.”
Mr Van Rompuy is proposing a deal that would cut the overall budget, but reduce the value of Britain’s annual rebate. However, the Prime Minister has rejected this idea and said it is “quite wrong” for the European Commission to propose increased Brussels budgets at a time of national austerity.
Speaking as he arrived in Brussels this morning, the Prime Minister said: “These are very important negotiations. Clearly at a time when we are making difficult decisions at home over public spending it would be quite wrong – it is quite wrong – for there to be proposals for this increased extra spending in the EU.
Husband and wife’s foster children from ethnic minorities ‘taken away because couple joined Ukip’
UKIP stands for independence from the EU. The EU is not a race
A married couple claimed yesterday they had their foster children taken away from them for being members of Ukip.
Social workers told the couple, who were caring for three children from ethnic minorities, that the party had ‘racist’ policies and that their membership of it made them unsuitable carers, it was reported last night.
The foster parents, who have been caring for children for nearly seven years and had been described as ‘exemplary’, said they were left feeling ‘stigmatised and slandered’.
The couple are worried they will be stopped from fostering again because of their membership of the UK Independence Party, which campaigns for Britain to leave the EU.
The three latest children, a baby girl, boy and an older girl from a troubled family, came to them in September on an emergency placement. But just eight weeks later, two staff from the Labour-run Rotherham council – the nearest to their village home in South Yorkshire – arrived and announced the local safeguarding children team had been told they were Ukip members in an anonymous tip.
The wife told the Daily Telegraph: ‘I was dumbfounded. Then my question to both of them was, “What has Ukip got to do with having the children removed?”
‘Then one of them said, “Well, Ukip have got racist policies”. The implication was that we were racist. ‘[The social worker] said Ukip does not like European people and wants them all out of the country to be returned to their own countries.
‘I’m sat there and I’m thinking, “What the hell is going off here?” because I wouldn’t have joined Ukip if they thought that. I’ve got mixed race in my family.’
She claimed the social worker said: ‘We would not have placed these children with you had we known you were members of Ukip because it wouldn’t have been the right cultural match.’
The children were all removed by the end of the week, leaving the couple ‘bereft’. The wife said: ‘We felt like we were criminals. From having a little baby in my arms, suddenly there was an empty cot.’
The couple are in their late 50s and are former Labour voters. The husband works with disabled people and was a Royal Navy reservist for more than 30 years. The wife is a qualified nursery nurse.
Nigel Farage, the leader of Ukip, described the actions of the council as ‘a bloody outrage’ and ‘political prejudice of the very worst kind’.
Rotherham council was unavailable for comment last night.
‘Pupil premium’: British schools will be paid hundreds of pounds to let poorer children jump the queue for places
Each lower-income child would bring £900 a year but few schools are likely to go for it. Even though it is unmentionable, everybody knows that is the pupils that make the school, not the teaching or the buildings. Poor pupils are usually the disruptive ones and letting them into a school would ensure that it is no longer a desirable school
Schools are being urged to let poorer pupils jump the queue for places in return for hundreds of pounds in extra funding per child.
Ministers are inviting schools and councils to abandon admissions rules which forbid selection on the basis of family finances and give low-income families priority over the middle-classes. Each lower-income child who is admitted under the initiative would bring ‘pupil premium’ funding to the school – worth £900 next year.
The move is being championed by David Laws, the new Liberal Democrat schools minister, who hopes to curtail so-called ‘selection by mortgage’, where families can improve their chances of getting into a popular school by buying a home nearby.
The plans risk provoking a middle-class backlash and accusations of social engineering.
Schools would be allowed to discriminate in favour of children who attract ‘pupil premium’ funding because they are on free school meals – or have been registered for free meals at any time over the last six years.
Children are eligible for free meals if their parents are on a range of benefits or the family’s annual income is less than £16,190. Up to 1.77million children attract the pupil premium.
The Coalition has already altered the admissions code to enable self-governing academies and free schools to prioritise children who attract the premium.
It is now considering extending the freedom to all state schools. They would have ‘discretion’ over how much priority they give to pupil premium children.
An Education Department spokesman said: ‘We are determined to narrow the unacceptable gap in attainment between children from different backgrounds.’
British universities tsar warns ‘dreadful snobbery’ wrongly forces students into taking degrees
School leavers must ignore the ‘dreadful snobbery’ which forces them to go to study for a degree, the universities watchdog has warned. Sir Les Ebdon said too much pressure was put on pupils to get into Oxford or Cambridge, regardless of whether it is the right for them to do.
He also warned that some black and minority ethnic parents in particular were too focussed on their children studying law and medicine at top universities, and missed out on places elsewhere as a result.
Sir Les became the head of the Office for Fair Access in September, with a remit to improve the number of children from poor backgrounds who gain a degree.
Education Secretary Michael Gove ordered the publication of ‘destination data’ on where pupils go after A Levels, and challenged schools who resign themselves to children doing badly.
‘Once you accept that a child is likely to do less well than his contemporaries, you condemn that child to fall further and further behind, to never know the satisfaction of pushing himself beyond his limits, to be a prisoner of others’ prejudice,’ Mr Gove has warned. ‘The victim of the bigotry of low expectations.’
But Sir Les, in an interview with the Times Educational Supplement, said the focus on universities meant schools risked ignoring vocational courses and apprenticeships which could be better for pupils who should be ‘choosing the subjects in which they excel and enjoy’.
He said schools should be encouraging students to take ‘the most appropriate route to realise their full potential’ and warned that society ‘really undervalues apprenticeships’.
Sir Les added: ‘One of our problems is there’s such a dreadful snobbery about whether people go to university or which university they go to. ‘I would hate to see that work through into undue pressure on schools.’
He said black and minority ethnic students are put under pressure by their parents to apply for medicine and law courses at Oxford and Cambridge, despite those courses being some of the most over-subscribed.
‘This is one of the reasons that some groups are underrepresented at some universities. We should be treating people as individuals.
‘This perceived feeling in our society that to be a doctor or lawyer is a high-status profession that black people aspire to for their children… there’s nothing wrong with it, but the most important thing is that students should be encouraged to fulfil their full potential in whatever subject that is.’
First Casualty Of British Green Energy Bill: Steel Giant Tata To Cut 900 UK Jobs
Steel giant Tata is cutting 900 jobs and closing 12 sites under plans to improve competitiveness, the firm announced today.
Most of the job losses will be in south Wales, including 500 at the Port Talbot plant, under restructuring of management and administrative posts. A total of 580 jobs will be cut in Wales, 155 in Yorkshire, 120 in the West Midlands and 30 on Teesside.
The proposals include the restructuring of management and administrative functions at Tata Steel’s Port Talbot-based production hub with the loss of around 500 jobs. Around 3,500 are currently employed at the site.
The company is also planning to close its sites at Tafarnaubach and Cross Keys. Production from Tafarnaubach will be relocated to other sites, while the Colorsteels operation will be relocated to Tata Steel’s key site at Shotton, in north Wales.
The move places 154 jobs at risk at Tafarnaubach and Cross Keys, although the restructuring will create 38 new roles in Shotton, Deeside. […]
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “This is very disappointing news, and a massive blow to those who will be losing their jobs.
“The Welsh Government has a very strong relationship with the company and officials will now work with Tata to establish a task force and identify what support we can provide for those affected.
“Tata’s decision reflects the serious and ongoing challenges faced by manufacturing industries during these very difficult economic times. In addition to these challenges, it is clear that high energy costs and uncertainty over UK Government energy policy are having a significant impact on business investment decisions. As a Government, we have warned for some time of the need for these costs to be reduced.
Britain’s “Green” policies under attack from Europe!
The future of the Government’s flagship Green Deal programme hangs in the balance after an intensifying tax dispute with the European Commission.
Brussels bureaucrats have warned Whitehall to overhaul the tax rules regarding energy-saving materials or face the prospect of massive fines at the European Court of Justice.
Currently, the UK Treasury levies a reduced rate of 5% VAT for insulation materials for walls, ceilings, floors and water tanks. However, the full 20% rate of VAT still applies to energy-efficient windows and doors.
In August, the European Commission warned the UK Government the reduced 5% tax rate is unlawful and it must change the law or face the prospect of the European Court imposing huge financial penalties.
The UK Government is fiercely disputing the ruling but today a spokesperson for Europe’s Tax Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta said it was unlikely the challenge will be successful and said the UK had only this week filed the formal paperwork to appeal.
“The current infringement proceeding is on the application of the reduced VAT rate to some goods and services which according to the VAT directive would not be subject to this rate,” she added.
“How this infringement interacts with the eligibility criteria of investments under the Green Deal is a domestic UK issue on which we do not have comments.”
However, she warned of a lengthy delay to a final outcome as the Commission deals on average with 400 to 500 infringement cases a month.
If, as threatened, Europe sticks to its ruling it means the Green Deal will be grounded because it will no longer be financially viable.
The energy-saving programme is underpinned by the so-called ‘golden rule’, which means the expected financial savings must be greater than the costs attached to the energy bill.
The imposition of an unexpected quadrupling in tax will rule many green improvements out of the scheme.
A spokesman for DECC admitted the department is closely monitoring the situation but did not want to discuss the implications while the crunch decision from Brussels is awaited.
If, as expected, the case is referred to the European Court of Justice to impose financial penalties the issue could drag on until the middle of next year at the earliest.
In the meantime, the Government is desperate to avoid repeating a boom similar to the Feed-in Tariff for solar PV as it may be penalised further to compensate for the retrospective difference in tax levels.
The October 1 launch of the Green Deal was played down by Ministers although earlier this month the Energy Secretary Ed Davey announced that householders insulating their homes would be able to claim up to £1,000 in cash from the Government in January.
The dispute has been simmering for decades as the UK government gradually expanded the list of energy-saving devices that qualify for lower rate VAT.
As the rate on electricity and gas consumption has long been set at 5%, the UK Government thought it appropriate to reduce the levels for energy conservation to the same level.
It is only now, 12 years after the five per cent rate for some key energy-saving measures was introduced, that the EC is challenging their legality. And it is seeking to force the UK government to remove all exemptions, thereby raising the VAT rate for all energy efficiency actions to the full 20%.
Shortly after the General Election, the EC tax inspectorate indicated disquiet about these lower VAT rates because they were beyond the permissible categories for reductions.
A ‘formal notice’ followed but HMRC believed they had answered the objections. HMRC then received an official Reasoned Opinion, claiming that the existing concessions were in breach of Annex 3 of the latest VAT directive. This states that the 5% rate is permitted only for the “provision, construction, renovation and alteration of housing, as part of a social policy”.
The Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin, briefed by HMRC, has strenuously rejected the claim that installing energy saving measures does not have a social purpose.
As well as issues raised by having a flagship policy disrupted, the Government also faces the problem of achieving carbon targets, energy security and its pledges on eradicating fuel policy, three of the aims of the Green Deal.
Three-quarters of the energy used in UK homes is for heating rooms and water, which accounts for 13% of UK emissions. Workplaces account for 20% of the total. To help meet the UK carbon budgets emissions in homes and communities must be reduced by 29% and by 13% in workplaces by 2022.
The energy efficiency sector in the UK already accounts for around 136,000 jobs, and had sales of £17.6 billion in 2010/11.
Sales in this sector have grown by over 4% per year in the UK since 2007/08, and are projected to grow by around 5% per year between 2010/11 and 2014/15.
With millions of the UK’s ageing houses being energy inefficient, the potential of the retrofit market is estimated at £500bn.
Drunken Welshman who sang anti-English songs on bus after wedding found guilty of racial abuse
This is consistent with British law but it’s rather pathetic that songs require the attention of the police and the courts<
A drunken Welsh wedding guest who insulted the English was convicted of racism today. Phillip Pritchard, 32, was on a coach home from a smart country wedding in Wales when he started singing anti-English songs.
He began by singing rugby songs but then segued into anti-English chants of his own design.
Another Welshman on the coach objected to Pritchard’s taunts and a 'heated row' erupted, forcing the coach driver to pull over into a lay-by and call police.
Pritchard, of Swansea, admitted using racially aggravated threatening, insulting, abusive words or behaviour.
Lucinda Nicholls, defending, said: 'He was one of many guests at a wedding function and it appears they were all intoxicated to some extent. 'There was some banter between some English people and Mr Pritchard, who is Welsh. 'Rugby songs were chanted and he got carried away.
'Just to add to the unusualness of the situation, the complainant in the matter is Welsh, not English, but felt other people on the bus would take offence.'
Pritchard was given a 12-month conditional discharge with costs of £150 by Brecon magistrates.