Thursday, 15 May 2014

Did Labour MP release confidential constituency mail to damage UKIP candidate in Dudley?

UKIP Dudley chairman Dean Perks
Did his local MP release details of a problem he had asked for
help with before he was UKIP to Hope not Hate?
We don't know Dean Perks, the chairman of UKIP's Dudley branch. We were though interested to see
that he is the subject of Hope not Hate's latest attack upon UKIP in a post entitled "UKIP candidate owes thousands in missed VAT payments". Included in the story is a link to a judgement by the First Tier Tribunal Tax Chamber which gives an official record of an appeal by Dean Alan Perks against a decision by HM Commissioners for Customs and Excise relating to VAT assessments.

All of which is rather rich given that Hope not Hate Ltd have evaded over £70,000 of VAT which their (and the Labour Party's) consultants Blue State Digital failed to charge them.

So, does Mr Perks owe thousands? We have no idea, and neither can Hope not Hate. While the judgement went against him, there is nothing to indicate that he did not pay the full amount due, while his statement to the local newspaper would seem to indicate that he reached a repayment agreement with them and continues to repay the money outstanding.

And then there is the case itself, in which Mr Perks appears to have been very unlucky and in which the court sympathises with the predicament he found himself in.

The details appear to have been as follows. Mr Perks is a plumber. His business was struggling largely because he had to charge VAT as a self-employed and VAT registered sole trader. He contacted his accountant to see whether it was possible for him to de-register, and was told it was. He instructed his accountant to do so.

His accountant, a Mr Summerfield, was subsequently arrested for money laundering offences which did not involve Mr Perks. Many documents were seized from Mr Summerfield's offices, including some relating to Mr Perks. It transpired that not only was Mr Perks not entitled to de-register, even if he had been Mr Summerfield had made no attempt to do so. When VAT demands continued to arrive addressed to Mr Perks, Mr Summerfield told him to 'bin them' as such demands 'often turned up after deregistration'. Mr Perks duly did so.

After Mr Summerfield's arrest, Mr Perks was left to try and sort out the mess which had been left behind. Relying on information from his accountant he believed the VAT Office assessment of money due was incorrect, and appealed to the tribunal, which it was his perfect right to do.

As stated in the court judgement to which Hope not Hate had linked, while Mr Perks' appeal was dismissed, the judge said,

"Mr Perks approach was that he was a plumber not an accountant. He had taken professional advice from Mr Summerfield in good faith and had accepted his advice at all stages without question....
We accept that he was following professional advice and that, as he now fully appreciates, he was appallingly let down but that does not displace his legal responsibility as a registered trader....
We took careful note of and had some sympathy with Mr Perks’ confusion over his understanding of the Demand Notices"

Unlike Hope not Hate, Mr Perks has a real job. He appears to have paid for professional advice and been badly advised by someone who was subsequently arrested. As a result, he found himself before the VAT tribunal appealing a VAT demand which flew in the face of what his professional advice had stated, and was there as a result not of his own wrongdoing per se, but that of his accountant who advised him poorly. If anybody at Hope not Hate had ever worked for a living, they might understand that.

A further question has also arisen over this story. While we accept that the Tribunal finding is a matter of public record, we had some difficulty finding it on a Google search even though we knew it existed.

We also found the Halesowen News article from this morning, and noted that in it, Mr Perks was quoted as saying, "I went through several tribunals and appeals as I thought it was a genuine mistake, I even asked Dudley North MP Ian Austin for help but got none."

This was quite interesting, because in March 2009, Nick Lowles wrote on his blog (we wouldn't normally link, but here it is - look quickly before it disappears!)

"Last night I spent about an hour on the phone with Ian Austin, the Labour MP for Dudley North. Ian is a long-time friend of Searchlight, and by that I mean since he was in his mid-teens, but today he is more helpful advising us on a media strategy"

We wonder whether that media strategy for 2014 would involve illegally passing on details of constituents and their problems to Hope not Hate and the local media when they become a UKIP branch chairman and candidate?

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