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‘Tax a lot’, Sykes welcomes G7 plan to tax multinational traders

Oldham Liberal Democrats have welcomed the adoption by the leaders of the world’s wealthiest nations of a proposal to levy a uniform 15% tax on the profits of multinationals, especially as it is similar to their own idea brought to the March 2021 Council meeting.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who is hosting the meeting of G7 leaders in London and Cornwall, announced an agreement in principal of a plan to introduce a 15% global minimum corporate tax rate on multinational corporations. Many of these domicile their head offices and declare corporate profits in no-tax havens or low-tax nations as a means of tax avoidance.

Commenting, the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, councillor Howard Sykes MBE said: “It would be nice to think Rishi Sunak did have the chance to read our March motion as this proposal mirrors our own idea to impose a tax on the excess online profits of multinationals, albeit on a national, rather than international, scale. Although 15% is too low a figure to impose on companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google, who report consistently obscene profits, it is a start as this is the first international agreement of its kind.  So to Chancellor Sunak I say, ‘Tax a lot’.” 

“There now needs to be more pressure from enlightened governments, politicians and faith leaders; charities and civil society groups; and concerned citizens to continue to press the G7 to make this tax real, substantial, and unavoidable”, added councillor Sykes. “And the money raised must be directed to where it is needed – alleviating the suffering of the world’s poor, tackling climate change, and supporting the recovery of our Covid-hit economies.”

The motion taken to the March 2021 meeting of Oldham Council by the Liberal Democrats (and approved) read:

Council 24 March 2021 – Notice of Opposition Business

Motion 1 – A Tax on Excess Online Profits

Council notes that whilst smaller High Street non-food retail outlets have been forcibly closed, and are facing business failure, because of the COVID-19 Lockdown, larger national businesses and multi-national businesses offering on-line products have thrived, reporting bumper profits.

Council notes that recent proposals from the UN and the EU are working to establish an international consensus on business taxation, to minimise profit-shifting for the purpose of avoiding corporation tax, but that these proposals are not likely to be introduced in time to have any impact on the excess online profits that some companies have made off the back of the coronavirus epidemic.

Raising a bespoke tax on excess online profits has precedent in the UK, and Council expresses its disappointment that the Chancellor has not yet introduced such a tax and believes that if we are, as the Prime Minister claims, ‘all in this together’, then the excessive profits of such on-line businesses should be subjected to a greater level of tax, and that the revenue raised employed to support our hollowed out public services (local government, schools and health) and the financial recovery of our High Street retailers.

Council resolves to ask the Chief Executive to write to:

  • The Chancellor of the Exchequer, The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, urging him to introduce such a tax as soon as possible as one means to ensure that we are ‘all in this together’.
  • Our three local MPs, the Greater Manchester Mayor and the Leaders of the other nine AGMA authorities to seek their support for such a tax.

Proposed by:                                      Seconded by:

Councillor Howard Sykes MBE                Councillor Diane Williamson

Homelessness fears grow over cuts to renters

A £40 million cut in support for renters – to below pre-pandemic levels – is likely to drive up homelessness rates across the borough, warns Shadow Cabinet member for Housing Sam Al-Hamdani.

The cuts to discretionary housing payments provide support to people claiming housing benefit or universal credit who face rent shortfalls, or for assistance with deposits. They are to be cut by 22%, in a change which was put through without attention being drawn to it in the spring budget.

Local Liberal Democrat Councillor Sam Al-Hamdani said: “So many people have spent the last year trying to manage in extraordinary circumstances. People’s jobs are at risk, and the last thing we need is for people to have emergency support withdrawn.

“The Government’s own figures show that three times as many private renters are behind on their payments as before coronavirus, and that as many again thought that they would fall behind in the next six months.”

The furlough scheme is due to end in September, and a ban on evictions during Covid was recently ended.

He continued: “Oldham is again likely to bear the brunt of this change. We have more people in tenuous accommodation, in precarious jobs, and who have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s impact.

“Once again, it is a decision taken by the Conservative Government in Westminster with little or no thought on the impact it will have on towns like ours.”

Liberal Democrats request debate on Child Sexual Exploitation review at July Council

The Liberal Democrats want to see the promised report from the review on historic allegations of child sexual exploitation to be published in advance of the 14 July meeting of the Full Council and for time to be set aside to debate the report at the meeting.

The Leader of the Oldham Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has sent his request to the Leader of Oldham Council and the Chief Executive on 25 May and yet has had no response or acknowledgement (a response has now arrived).

In November 2019, Oldham Council and the Oldham Safeguarding Partnership commissioned the independent review from the Mayor of Greater Manchester.  Two experienced investigators, Malcolm Newsam MBE, a childcare expert, and Gary Ridgeway, formerly a senior police officer specialising in public protection, are now working to finalise their report. 

In December 2020, the Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester, who has just been re-appointed, promised to publish the findings in the ‘middle of 2021’ and councillor Sykes wants to see that promise fulfilled.

“We are now almost ‘in the middle of 2021’ so it is my hope that the report will soon be published and that an agenda item can be tabled for the 14 July Council meeting so we can debate it”, said councillor Sykes.  “If there is a further delay, I have asked for a special council meeting to be held to discuss the report.”

Keep Whitehall mandarins out of Peak District Park, say Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats have urged the government not to transfer the management of the country’s National Parks from local elected authorities to Whitehall mandarins.

Councillor Howard Sykes MBE has written to the responsible government minister, Lord Benyon, with a plea to keep control in local hands after plans leaked that National Parks Authorities could be abolished and a new National Landscapes Service created instead.

Commenting, Councillor Sykes said: “Part of Saddleworth falls within the Peak District National Park, and Oldham Council has a representative on the Authority through which local councillors, and their constituents, can raise issues.  If the Authority is abolished and control reverts to Whitehall, we will no longer have any say in how the park is managed.”

“The Liberal Democrats believe that local public organisations, like our National Parks, should be managed locally and be accountable locally.  We are convinced that transferring management of our National Park from local organisations to Whitehall civil servants would be a retrograde step, both for our environment and for our democracy.” 

“We shall see if the Minister is able to reassure me that this will not happen, but, as this government is already poised to remove local accountability in planning through its Planning for the Future legislation, I am not hopeful.”

Irony of Labour call for “residents first” planning approach

The call for a “residents first” planning approach by new council leader Arooj Shah has been called “deeply ironic” by local Liberal Democrat councillor Sam Al-Hamdani.

In recent years the Labour Council has changed the rules around being able to challenge planning applications, making it increasingly difficult for them to be heard in public.

With just one resident allowed three minutes to speak, it has left residents feeling more and more excluded from the planning process, especially on contentious applications, such as the recent application from 256 houses at Knowls Lane in Lees and Springhead.

Councillor Al-Hamdani said: “I would love for there to be a ‘residents first’ planning approach in Oldham. That would mean changing the system to better engage with residents, and to make sure their voices are heard.

“Time and again, I have heard from residents responding to the Knowls Lane application that they just want a fair, transparent decision. They certainly don’t feel that we have a ‘residents first’ planning approach.”

With constant pressure on Councils to meet national targets for housebuilding, and less funding for brownfield developments, people increasingly feel that they are locked out of a planning system which ignores their interests.

“It’s not good enough to call for a ‘residents first’ planning approach only when it suits the Labour councillors. People must have a forum to be part of the planning process all the time.”

“The recent proposals to change the planning process by the Conservative Government will strip the public of its voice even further.

“When it comes to giving people the chance to speak, Labour and the Conservatives are both the same. We need a planning system which builds in the public voice, and makes fair, transparent decisions with the public, in full view.”

Oldham Liberal Democrat Leader calls for reinstatement of Dovestones volunteer rangers

The Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has written to the Chair and Chief Executive of the Peak District National Park Authority calling upon them to reinstate the volunteer ranger service at Dovestones Reservoir.

Commenting councillor Sykes said:  “The volunteer rangers freely gave their time and commitment to looking after our countryside and wildlife, and keeping visitors safe.  At a time when we have seen more moorland fires and increasing visitor numbers at Dovestones, it must defy common sense to abolish a service, which must cost the Parks Authority very little financially, but which represents a lot of extra  ‘boots on the ground’ looking out for fires and for people.  I hope that my letter provokes a rethink and that we shall see the volunteer rangers back in post soon.”