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2011: Jan-March

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28th March   

Updated: Good Things Come in Small Packets...

Government to act against large scale VAT avoidance via low value import exemption
Link Here

George Osborne is expected to use this month's budget to announce a crackdown on a ballooning internet mail order VAT exemption on the sale of CDs, DVDs, memory cards, vitamin pills and contact lenses, involving some of the biggest names in British retailing.

Industrial scale avoidance of VAT on these and other goods is estimated to have cost the exchequer £ 130m in lost tax revenues last year -- a jump of more than 50% on five years ago -- according to Revenue & Customs.

Treasury minister Lord Sassoon told the Lords: We are committed to tackling tax avoidance and, in that context, we hope to be in a position to announce possible changes to the operation of LVCR [low-value consignment relief] in the budget . He added that, in contrast to the Labour government -- which had been closely reviewing the controversial European VAT relief since 2006 -- the new administration had immediately gripped the situation .

Osborne, who criticised the loophole when he was shadow chancellor, is thought unlikely to introduce any radical changes to the rules on LVCR without a formal consultation.  The existing European LVCR rules on VAT -- drafted 28 years ago, long before the potential of the internet had been imagined -- waive a requirement to pay VAT for low-cost goods imported from outside the European Union. Currently this applies to any goods bought for £ 18 or less. The arrival of online retailing, however, has allowed larger firms to construct complex transaction and logistics structures, using Channel Islands-based subsidiaries or agent companies to qualify for the relief.

Campaigners against the VAT loophole have blamed it for pushing hundreds of smaller retailers, especially music and DVD stores, out of business. The number of independent stores in this area more than halved between 2005 and 2009, dropping from 985 to 446, according to the Entertainment Retailers' Association.

Update: Slightly Lower Value Consignment Relief

28th March 2011. See  article from

A Treasury press officer told the Register that the VAT exemption value would be reduced from £ 18 per package to £ 15. Given falling prices for DVDs and CDs we're guessing this won't have a huge impact.

The change comes into force in November, and the Treasury will also talk to the European Community to see if more can be done.

The Forum of Private Business - which has campaigned against lower value consignment relief - said the £ 3 cut was not enough, describing it as an incredibly minor tweak. It said that small businesses which charged their customers VAT could still not compete with big players with offshore warehouses.

The FPB said the proposed timeline was far too leisurely to help struggling smaller retailers.


20th March   

Wakefield Utopia...

Nutter MP has a whinge at sex shop plans for Wakefield
Link Here

David and Michaela Andrews have applied for a sex establishment licence from Wakefield Council to sell sex articles including explicit DVDs from Utopia Adult Store on The Springs.

Wakefield MP Mary Creagh has whinged at the plans to open the city centre shop: Wakefield councillors have worked hard to improve the city centre and the opening of Trinity Walk in May will bring new shoppers to our city. The last thing we want is for them to get off the bus and walk past a seedy sex shop. That would be bad for the city and bad for trade.

The Andrews have run Utopia in Castleford for six years and want to move to Wakefield. They aim to replace Morgana Clothing, which will relocate.

Mrs Andrews said: At the end of the day we are not much different to Ann Summers which is based in the Ridings shopping centre. It will not be seedy. We aim at couples and already have experience in having a licence. We are just a normal business, but people have preconceived ideas. There are lots of empty shops in Wakefield and the city could do with the business.

Mrs Andrews added that 5% of their turnover will go to a breast cancer charity.

The council's licensing office is collecting objections until March 25 and will not consider any moral objections.


18th March   

Doing a Clumsy Quickstep to Avoid Sex Shop Entrepreneur...

Ann Widdecombe refuses to hand out award to woman making a success of a lingerie and sex toy business
Link Here

Ann Widdecombe has long championed the nutter cause. And she stuck to her principles when she refused to present a businesswoman with an award after learning she ran a company selling lingerie and sex toys.

She was presenting Women Of Worth awards when entrepreneur Emily Bendell was called to the stage. Bendell is the CEO of BlueBella a company with the tagline: lingerie and lovestuff

Widdecombe quickly passed the award to another presenter to hand over.

Emily later explained: As I walked down to the stage I noticed a kerfuffle as she passed it over. It was a real surprise and it certainly took the shine out of the day for me. Ann is a great proponent of women getting ahead by their own merits so I would have hoped that she would have recognised my achievements.

Widdecombe, a strict Catholic, was candid about why she preferred her co-presenter to hand out that particular award: Let's be honest, anyone who knows me would know that I wouldn't approve of sex shops and certainly don't want to hand out awards for running them. But there were two of us handing out awards and when I saw that she had won I just handed over to the co-presenter, who completely understood.

Emily started her lingerie, nightwear and sex toys business BlueBella in 2005. It is now a multi-million pound company and has grown by 150% in the past year. Her efforts were recognised at the ceremony where she won the Small Business Of The Year award.


24th February   

Porn Research...

Invitation to a survey about the everyday use of pornography
Link Here

Clarissa Smith, Feona Attwood & Martin Barker are embarking on a research project about the everyday usage of pornography. They are inviting users to contribute via an online anonymous survey. They write:

We want to emphasise from the outset that the research we are conducting is unlike almost all the previous research that has been conducted on pornography. In the past, pornography has overwhelmingly been assumed to be a problem , and the only really important questions to ask about it are -- how much do people (and especially children) encounter it, and how great is the harm that it does? This research is different.

Our project is concerned with the everyday uses of pornography, and how the people who use it feel it fits into their lives. Pornography is of course a highly topical issue, subject to many opposing views and strong opinions . And we are not saying that there are no moral or political issues. But we are saying that the voices of users and enjoyers have been swamped. In fact, there is very little research that engages with the users of pornography, asking how, when and why they turn to it.

We want to gather the thoughts and responses of people who have chosen to use pornography of their own accord. We believe that there can be many different and complicated reasons for looking at pornography. We also don't believe that all the materials that go under that label, pornography , are the same -- only to be distinguished by how extreme or explicit they are.

We are hoping to gather thousands of responses from both frequent and infrequent users of pornography. The more we can gather, the more confidently we will be able to present the results in the on-going public debates on this issue. We want to know some very simple things, like what you view, how you find it, how often, what you particularly like, what is exciting and how this fits in with your feelings about sex, your body, and your pleasures.

If you don't know us, we are happy to tell you about ourselves, you can learn in detail about our previous work in this kind of area. If you just want to move to the questionnaire, we will just say here that all three of us have been involved in questioning the basis of moral campaigns about the media. Clarissa Smith has been researching pornography since the mid-1990s and has written widely about the problems of censorship and the attempts to legislate against sexually explicit materials. Feona Attwood's research is in the area of sex in contemporary culture and controversial media. Martin Barker has been involved in such work since the early 1980s, beginning with the so-called video nasties campaign.

The questionnaire we are asking you to fill in has been carefully designed. It will enable us to understand the patterns of use of porn by ordinary people. You'll find the questionnaire is a mix of multiple choice and open questions, and we will only be able to use what you say if you answer all the questions. Please feel free to add as much detail as you like in the spaces available about your pleasures and disappointments in pornography, how you use it and why. We reckon it will take you between 20-30 minutes to complete.

Once this project is completed (which will probably be around the end of 2011), we promise that it will be made widely available, including via this website.

Thank you -- and if you agree that these issues badly need more knowledge and less assumption and bias, help us by passing on this weblink to other people.


22nd February   

Lost in the Post...

Parcel Force employee convicted of stealing from sex shop deliveries
Link Here

A Peterborough post man faces incarceration for stealing items from people's mail.

Twenty-four porn DVDs, sixty pieces of lingerie, a plethora of sex toys, and receipts from adult toy stores were found in the attic of one Alec Clark's home. The man had been opening multiple order packages, taking something out, repackaging the rest, and sending them on their way. Clark admitted he'd begun stealing adult items five months after he'd started working for Parcel Force, a British postal service owned by Royal Mail. He pleaded guilty to two counts of theft.

For eleven years, Clark was employed as a delivery driver and collections manager in Peterborough and Cambridge until he was suspended in May.


30th January   

Update: A Bunch of Mad, Rabid Feminists...

Shoreditch vicar tells a few home truths about Hackney Council's moral campaign
Link Here

Reverend Paul Turp has strongly criticised Hackney Council for attempting to impose a moral code on residents and visitors by outlawing lap dancing, sex shops and adult cinemas in the area.

Hackney council voted last week for what it called a nil policy, banning any new strip venues from opening. The policy was approved despite being supported by less than 30% of people who took part in a public consultation on the nil policy.

The policy derives from the 2010 Policing and Crime Act, which gives councils greater authority in the licensing of strip clubs. The policy alsodubiously removes sex establishments' rights of appeal if licence renewal is refused.

Reverend Turp, of St Leonard's Church in London's Shoreditch, said he was hugely disappointed with the decision, adding that it will push the business underground, resulting in more women working dangerously on the streets and will add to the people who turn to his church for help.

The clergyman, who provides refuge for 17 homeless people, as well as caring for alcoholics, addicts and prostitutes, said: The council have created a problem where there wasn't one to begin with. They deliberately disregarded the views of the people.

Bill Parry-Davies, a solicitor who is representing two of the existing clubs, said the local authority had abused its powers and plans further legal moves to challenge the ban: Hackney's policy seems ideologically driven, regardless of its consequences in the real world. It's regressive. People fought to protect women by introducing licensing. The courts will want to look very closely at a policy which seeks to deny a licensee's right of appeal and the courts' jurisdiction in such a manner.

Hackney councillor Emma Plouviez said that she thought the nil policy was the right thing to do: When we had the application for a new establishment it did provoke more opposition than anything else . That's where this policy came from: this policy wasn't dreamed up by a bunch of mad, rabid feminists.


27th January   

Update: Hackney Stripped of Democracy...

Hackney Council confirm that they are overriding public consultation results and banning further adult venues
Link Here

As expected, Hackney councillors have confirmed a ban on future strip clubs and sex shops from the borough, despite opposition from workers and residents.

All but two councillors in attendance at the town hall voted for an amended nil licensing policy on sex entertainment establishments.

Fewer than 30% of the people who took part in the council's own consultation on the plans supported the council's nil policy.

The decision means that strip clubs, sex shops and sex cinemas will be outlawed from all of Hackney's wards with the exception of well-run, longstanding establishments, after the licensing committee amended the proposals.

Hackney currently has four strip clubs: Ye Olde Axe, Browns, Rainbow Sports Bar and The White Horse along with sex shop Expectations, all of which are in Haggerston ward.

Hackney Central ward councillor Vincent Stopps welcomed the policy with a very self centred view. He said: I'm really happy to support this. Because of it, I'm going to get a lot less grief about strip clubs and bars opening in my ward so thank you very much.

Cllr Geoff Taylor of Victoria ward and Cllr Angus Mulready-Jones were the only councillors to vote against the policy.


16th January   

Updated: Democracy Challenged Hackney Council...

Large majority opposing 'nil adult entertainment' policy to be ignored, but existing strip pubs and sex shops are likely to be reprieved
Link Here

More than 2,700 people answered Hackney Council's questionnaire about their nil adult entertainment policy proposal,

The consultation ran from September 20 to December 13 last year and revealed a large majority of respondents opposing the council's 'nil' policy.

The results were:

  • Supporting a ban on sex cinemas 26%, opposing the ban 66% (remainder said don't know)
  • Supporting a ban on sex shops 19%, opposing the ban 75% (remainder said don't know)
  • Supporting a ban on strip pubs and lap dancing 30%, opposing the ban 66% (remainder said don't know)

Those living in the vicinity of the existing strip pubs in Haggerston were even more opposed to the council's 'nil' policy.

Pressing ahead anyway?

See  article from

Having considered the responses the consultation, the council is proposing to go ahead with the nil policy across the whole borough.

The council qualifies its stance by stating that:

Given the level of opposition to the 'nil' policy from some respondents and in recognition of the existing establishments that have operated in Haggerston for a considerable period of time it is suggested that these existing premises be treated as a special exception to the 'nil' in policy in Haggerston only.

Such exceptional circumstances will only be applied to the existing establishments if they can demonstrate that their premises islongstanding, well-run, and does not generate significant levels of concern among the community and/or statutory authorities.

Pauline Bristow, partner and licensee of the White Horse on Shoreditch High Street, said she is cautiously optimistic about the news:

We are quite pleased with the results of the survey, but we do feel that we still still be impeded in our renewal application. We feel that Hackney Council will impose some onerous conditions.

We felt that doing the survey might have promoted the voice of people who are against gentleman's venues and encouraged them to say 'we don't want them here'. I think the wording of the policy is very, very wrong, to call us sex establishments implies that sex is going on behind our doors. It should be exotic dancing venues, it is very misleading.

People know they have to behave themselves in these venues, they are not allowed to get away with what they are in normal clubs. Police reports show less problems from our venues than ordinary ones, so what is the problem? We are hopeful, but we are not holding our breath.

The report, which is to be reviewed by the licensing committee on 12 January before being put to full council on 26 January, also states that: While the proposed 'nil' policy may result in no further premises being opened, the policy does not require existing premises to close.

Update: Woeful disregard for resident's views

16th January 2011. See  article from

On Wednesday 12 January, the licensing Committee voted to approve a new nil policy on sex establishments. If approved by full council on 26 January, it means no new adult oriented businesses will be granted a license.

While residents of the borough spoke up against Hackney Council's proposed nil policy towards adult establishments within the borough, it appears the council already had their minds made up, so the decision to go ahead with putting forward a nil policy to full council was not a surprise to me.

...Read the full article

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