Baronet’s son loses “name and arms case”

The England & Wales Court of Appeal has ruled that a baronet’s failure to adopt the ancestral family name within a certain period of time did not disqualify him from inheriting the family castle.

The background to this case is Corby Castle in north Cumbria.   Sir John Howard-Lawson inherited Corby Castle in 1962 and sold it for £2.5m in 1994.  Corby Castle had been the family seat for around four hundred years.

His own son Philip Howard later demanded around £1.5m from the sale proceeds.  Philip’s argument was that his father had not complied with the archaic terms of a will executed by his great-grandfather Philip John Canning Howard.  In particular he argued that his father did not change his surname to “Howard” and adopt the family coat of arms within the deadline referred to in the will.  A deadline of one year had been included in the will.  Such “name and arms clauses” were traditionally used by the landed classes to keep the family name and arms linked to the estate.

The Court of Appeal held that as his father had at least applied to use the family surname and coat of arms before the deadline, he had complied sufficiently with the will’s terms.   The College of Arms had not granted his father these rights until after the one year deadline.   Interestingly a court had decided in 1961 that Sir John’s father, William, had not met the deadline imposed by Philip John Canning Howard.

Philip Howard lost his case in the England and Wales High Court and now the appeal too.  It is reported that he intends to take this matter to the Supreme Court.

The case report can be found here.

A report from the STEP journal can also be found here.

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A glorious week of sunshine in “tax land”

I will start with where to find one of the most comprehensive and detailed review’s of last week’s UK Budget statement.  The link is to the always impressive Institute of Fiscal Studies and can be found here.  In particular see the “Business tax, stamp duty and anti-avoidance slides”.  Slide 9 on “Forecast revenue from anti-avoidance measures” is particularly revealing.

Now to the fiscal powers debate.  I was disappointed to see that Peter de Vink has been deselected by the Scottish Conservatives.  Peter was hoping to be elected to Midlothian Council in May.  As far as the fiscal powers debate is concerned this shows that there are some on the centre right in Scotland who can see the opportunities that fiscal autonomy or independence could bring.  Peter’s article in the Herald can be found here.

The First Minister has announced the setting up of a “Fiscal Commission Working Group” to establish a fiscal framework for an independent Scotland.  The group will include former World Bank Chief Economist and Nobel Prize winner Jospeh Stiglitz of Columbia University.  My only slight concern relating to this group is that it comprises four economists, albeit eminent economists.  This group needs to ensure it has an understanding of the underlying law and legal framework that is crucial to creating a new fiscal framework for Scotland.  That includes the creation of a Scottish Exchequer.  I will once again reiterate my call for a review of all government tax, law and registration services in Scotland.  A Scottish Government press release on this can be found here.

I was also interested to read about a report by the David Hume Institute which claimed that an independent Scotland would be liable for around £100bn of debts and liabilities.  In particular I was interested to see one of the first references to the “other side of the balance sheet”.  The report says that the UK has approximately £821bn of “assets”. The £100bn figure comes from deducting £69bn of assets from approximately £152bn to £171bn of debts and liabilities.  A Scotland on Sunday article on this story can be found here.  This particular part of the fiscal powers debate has a long way to go.

In advance of May’s local government elections, Reform Scotland has called for non-domestic rates to be devolved in full to local authorities.  This would mean a variable business rate in different areas of Scotland.  The Reform Scotland paper can be found here.  Non-domestic rates is one of two tax powers presently devolved to the Scottish Parliament, the other being council tax.  Although these taxes are administered by the local authorities control rests with the Scottish Parliament.

The proposal would also mean that local authorities would keep the revenue they collect from business rates.  At the moment this revenue is handed back to the Scottish Government.  The Scottish Government then redistribute it as part of its grant to each local authority.  The Reform Scotland proposal could also be used as a framework for when control over the Crown Estate is devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

According to a study carried out by accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young, Edinburgh businesses contribute more to the UK economy per head of population than any other major city in the UK.  The main reason given is that Edinburgh wasn’t hit as hard by the financial crisis as London.  In addition, oil-rich Aberdeen was the only major UK city to see its economy grow during the recession.  This is excellent news for the Scottish economy.  An article from the Scotsman on this can be found here.

Now to corporation tax.  The Financial Times recently reported on how 15 multinational companies are considering locating substantial operations in Britain as a result of UK corporate tax reforms.  What I found most interesting about this report is when tax competition is discussed in a UK context it is a positive thing.  Contrast this with the tone of the debate over devolving control over corporation tax to the Scottish Parliament.

Continuing on the corporation tax theme.  It is not just the headline rate of tax that is important.  The underlying law which deals with, for example, reliefs is just as important.  Further evidence for this is shown by a recent statement by the European Commission.  The European Commission are claiming that the UK is breaking European law by imposing an immediate capital gains tax charge on companies that relocate to another EU member country.  The Commission has requested that the UK abolish this exit tax within two months, or be referred to the European Court of Justice.  I await the reaction to this by the UK Government with interest.  The statement from the European Commission can be found here.

The Unoccupied Properties Bill has been introduced at Holyrood.  At the moment empty and unfurnished residential properties are exempt from council tax for the first six months.  After that period, they qualify for a 10% discount.  Under this Bill local authorities will be given the power to charge up to twice as much council tax on residential properties that are empty and unfurnished.  It is hoped this will act as an incentive for home owners to bring their empty houses back into use.  The Scottish government has also announced a new loan fund which will be specifically targeted at projects bringing properties into use for affordable housing.

The new bill will also controversially reduce the non-domestic business rates discount for some empty commercial properties from 50% to 10%.  The argument put forward is that this will encourage owners to bring boarded-up shops back into use.  A report from the BBC news website on this can be found here.

Now to England.  Over 85% of local authorities have accepted the UK Government’s offer to freeze council tax rates.  This is contrast to the agreement reached between the Scottish Government and all of Scotland’s local authorities.  England’s local authorities were offered a one-off grant worth 2.5% of their budget if they agreed to the freeze.  More on this can be found here.

Let’s end with Wales and the news that the Welsh Government has started to consult on whether Wales should be a separate legal jurisdiction.  The Welsh government will ask the judiciary, lawyers and members of the public whether they want a jurisdiction along the lines of those found in Scotland and Northern Ireland.  An article from the Law Society Gazette on this matter can be found here.

Have a good weekend.

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Winterbourne View and England’s Care Quality Commission

The scenes shown in the BBC Panorama programme were truly shocking.   To date 12 people have been arrested in connection with the inquiry being conducted by the police.

The Panorama programme was contacted by whistleblower Terry Bryan who alerted the BBC with his concerns about some staff.  Mr Bryan, a senior nurse, acted after his concerns were not followed up by the home’s management or the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The CQC published its report yesterday on its inspection of services provided at Winterbourne View.  A independently-led serious case review has already been announced by the CQC.

A number of concerns have already been raised both regarding the report published yesterday and the larger question of whether the CQC is the right body to conduct a review of the care system in England.

One point on the report published yesterday by the CQC.  The CQC defence in this matter seems to be that Castlebeck, the owners of Winterbourne View – now closed, misled them.  That is simply not good enough.

The report and a press release from the CQC can be found here.

An article from the Guardian dated 7 June can be found here.

A report from BBC news on yesterday’s report can be found here.

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Social care in England – Dilnot report

An independent report into elderly care in England, commissioned by the UK Government and headed by Andrew Dilnot, has been released today.

The Dilnot report recommends that a person’s lifetime contribution towards his or her social care costs in England should be capped at £35,000.

The report also recommends that the means-tested threshold in England, above which people are liable for their full care costs, should be increased from £23,250 to £100,000.

The Dilnot report can be found here.

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Winterbourne care home to close

A residential hospital for vulnerable adults near Bristol where alleged abuse was secretly filmed by the BBC Panorama programme is to close on Friday.

Castlebeck, which runs Winterbourne View, said the hospital would close on 24 June when the last patients would be transferred to alternative services.

The BBC news report can be found here.

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Elderly care in England

Age UK claimed in a report published today that care and support for older people in England has reached breaking point.   The report claims that 800,000 people who currently need care receive no formal support from the state or private sector agencies.

A copy of the report can be found here.


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