News in Brief – 6 August

PAC criticises PFI prisions

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has criticised the Home Office over construction and operation of two private finance initiative prisons at Bridgend in South Wales and Fazakerley on Merseyside. Too little risk was transferred to the operators, said the MPs, who also criticised poor performance penalties as inadequate. Both Securicor/Costain at Bridgend and Group 4/Tarmac at Fazakerley made mistakes that had to be sorted out by the prison service.

Agency loses #3bn in funds The Benefits Agency has come under attack from the Commons Public Accounts Committee for not doing enough to combat fraud. After the agency’s accounts were qualified for the ninth successive year, the committee said the agency should do more to reduce error and fraud – the #3bn total loss to public funds is greater than the #2.5bn it costs to run the agency.

Official late payers named Two government departments failed to pay more than one in ten of their bills on time last year, according to the government’s own figures. The Office for National Statistics and the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Foods were the worst offenders in Whitehall, paying just 89.4% and 83.8% of their bills on time respectively. Only three offices – the government’s Actuary’s Department, the National Investment and Loan Office and the Privy Council Office – managed to pay all their bills on time, according to the Better Payment Practice Group.

Wingsail vote on liquidation The 6,500 shareholders of Walker Wingsail are due to meet tomorrow at Alexandra Palace in London to put the company into voluntary liquidation. A resolution has been drafted to appoint Ian Walker from the Exeter office of Pannell Kerr Forster as liquidator. The liquidation will be subject to the approval of creditors, due to meet in London on Monday.

Rugby rescue at Coventry Coventry Football Club (RU), the second division rugby club that went into receivership two weeks ago, found a buyer earlier this week. With only one week to go before the club’s next scheduled match, the club’s appointed receiver, Buchler Phillips, confirmed the remaining assets, except the ground, had been sold to a business consortium called Bryants. Buchler Phillips said the club owed creditors #2.3m and had remaining assets of #1m. Tax breaks mooted for high-tech start-ups Chancellor Gordon Brown is considering special tax concessions for people who leave safe jobs to start new hi-tech companies. As he considered his next Budget, Brown said too much venture capital was going into management buyouts rather than hi-tech, high-risk ventures. He is also looking to provide special relief for companies investing in R&D and staff training.

New draft tax clauses The Inland Revenue has issued a second tranche of rewritten clauses for public comment as part of its tax law rewrite project. Copies of the new clauses, relating to individuals’ savings and investment income, are available on the Revenue’s Web site, or on paper from 0171 438 6420. The final deadline for comment is 30 November.

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