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Issue:- 27 September  2012

Southport Solicitor jailed for VAT fraud

A Southport solicitor, who pocketed £196,000 in VAT over 8 years of working on the Northern court circuit, was jailed last week.   Robert Walter Osman, 64, a self-employed barrister from Birkdale, Southport was suspended from the bar following bankruptcy and ceased practising in 2011. During the bankruptcy proceedings HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) investigators discovered Osman had failed to account for VAT he charged his customers.  Mike O’Grady Assistant Director Criminal Investigation, HMRC said:- “HMRC officers identified that Osman charged his customers VAT but never paid the money over to the Revenue. He simply pocketed the cash for his own personal gain, enhancing his lifestyle.  Tax fraud and attempts to launder the proceeds of crime are treated extremely seriously by HMRC, and we will pursue any individuals or crime gangs believed to be attacking the public revenue in this way.”   Osman was jailed for 12 months at Leeds Crown Court on Wednesday, 19 September 2012, by His Honour Judge Ibbotson. Osman pleaded guilty on his first appearance at Crown Court. He had previously appeared at Liverpool Magistrates on a charge of fraudulently evading the payment of value added tax, to the value of £196,000, between January 2003 to February 2011.

Help for flood-hit homes

HOMES in West Derby, Merseyside, which have been hit by flash floods in previous years are being given extra protection this week. The City Council obtained a £200,000 grant from the Environment Agency to carry out flood protection measures at approximately 50 houses in Crawford Close, Leyfield Road, Leyfield Close, Churchdown Road and Churchdown Grove. The work on protecting the houses was under way before this week’s heavy rainfall. Floods hit the homes in the summer of 2010 and some of the houses had been hit previously by floods. Work, carried out by contractor Whitehouse, involves the fitting of flood protection doors, the installation of storm porches and “smart” air bricks. There will also be some repointing and the sealing of pipes and cable entry points. Local MP Stephen Twigg will be viewing the work this week. He said:- “I am very pleased that action is being taken to give reassurance to occupiers that their houses are protected against flooding which can be devastating. While we can’t prevent flooding entirely, we can reduce the dangers through partners working together and with the people most at risk to minimise its effects and reduce the damage it causes.”

Councillor Steve Munby, cabinet member for neighbourhoods said:- “The heavy rain this week, with the resulting problems, has underlined the importance of this work. People in this area have been hit by flooding on a number of occasions so we are trying to do what we can to help those in areas where the risk of flooding is greatest. Floods can happen anywhere at anytime because of rising ground water levels, burst water drains and run-off from sudden rain. We have had exceptionally high levels of rainfall this year and increasingly severe and frequent rainstorms mean the risk of floods will increase. It is difficult to predict and pinpoint when surface water flooding , which happens when heavy rainfall overwhelms the drains capacity in a local area, will hit but we can be prepared in those areas which experience has shown are most at risk."

Chronic Fatigue sufferers ignored by trusts

IN England more than 33% of Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) either don’t commission specialist services for M.E./CFS patients or cannot confirm they do. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland provision is far worse.  Action for M.E., the UK’s leading charity for people with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.), has produced a damning report, Ignorance, injustice and neglect, about NHS specialist services for people with M.E.  It is based on the results of Freedom of Information Act requests to all Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in England, Health Boards in Scotland and Wales and Health and Social Care Boards in Northern Ireland and crucially uses the NHS’s own statistics to expose failings.  M.E., also known as Chronicle Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), is a chronic, fluctuating neurological illness affecting, to varying degrees, an estimated 250,000 in the UK.  Less than 25% of PCTs commission specialist care in the home for those M.E. patients who are too disabled to travel.  Only 10% of PCTs could provide information on the numbers of children with M.E. that are treated in their patient population. National standards and clinical guidelines are being ignored.

Action for M.E. Chief Executive, Sir Peter Spencer, said:- “These figures are a disgraceful indictment of institutionalised discrimination and neglect. Health Services in all of the four home nations are still not even beginning to address the needs of this vulnerable patient group properly. Rhetoric and prevarication from Ministers is simply not good enough. We need action now to put this right once and for all.”

As part of its Time for Action campaign, Action for M.E. is demanding the following:-

In England, the Secretary of State for Health should take responsibility for ensuring that the care commissioning process in the UK is done properly for M.E./CFS specialist services.

As local commissioning has so evidently failed this patient group, special arrangements should be made by the new NHS Commissioning Board. The outcomes of these arrangements should be periodically audited to check compliance.

In Scotland and Wales, Governments should provide ring fenced additional start up funding immediately to implement the national plans they have already drawn up and make proper provision for full scale services as soon as possible.

The Northern Ireland Government should accept this report as another wake up call to engage with the patient groups and clinicians as a matter of greater urgency.

At the local level, members of national Parliaments and Assemblies, together with elected representatives in local Government should examine the information provided from their areas and hold to account those organisations that are failing their M.E./CFS patients so badly.

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