The royal residence at Buckingham Palace pays less council tax than a three bedroom semi.

Some people have been affronted by a series of articles in multiple media outlets, including the Economist, that suggest that Buckingham Palace pays less council tax than an average three-bedroom semi in Blackpool. It is certainly true that this year 46% of households in England will receive a bigger council-tax bill than the Palace which is valued at around £1bn, sits in band H and is charged £1828 by Westminster City Council.

However, Full Fact is clear that this statement in isolation, is missing context about the rates and charges paid by the palace. 

It accepted that part of Buckingham Palace, the ‘Royal Residence’—the part of the palace in which the King and Royal family live—is subject to council tax and that this is levied at £1828 a year. However, the rest of the palace is not subject to council tax but to business rates.  Westminster Council confirmed that the rateable value (how much it would cost to rent the property for a year) of Buckingham Palace is £1.676 million, with the total amount payable in the 2023/24 financial year set at £891,632.

The editorial team from the Economist were quick to accept that they could have been clearer that Buckingham Palace pays business rates on the non-residential part of the palace, but the fact that the residential part of a building in the heart of London, with vast gardens and all its other amenities, pays such a small band H council-tax charge still demonstrates the absurdities of the system.

The fact is that a median property in England is a band C property, and the average band C council tax rate across England is £1,836. It is interesting how these absurdities always seem to benefit the rich.

A senior aide to Rishi Sunak reportedly placed a bet on the date of the general election.

This column has ceased to be surprised at the ingenious ways people find to make money, but Tory candidate, Craig Williams’ “flutter” on the date of the general election, is, perhaps the most ingenious.

According to the Guardian, external, Mr Williams, a senior aide to Rishi Sunak who is standing for election in Montgomeryshire & Glyndwr – placed a £100 bet on a July election just three days before Mr Sunak named 4 July as the date.

The Gambling Commission are now investigating. A spokesperson said that the confidential use of information in order to gain an unfair advantage when betting “may constitute an offence of cheating under Section 42 of the Gambling Act, which is a criminal offence”.

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth said: “These allegations are utterly extraordinary.”

He claimed Rishi Sunak had “sat on this information for more than a week but lacked the backbone to take action”.

Just as it was thought things couldn’t get any worse it has been revealed that both a member of Rishi Sunak’s close police protection team, and a Tory candidate, were the second and third individuals being investigated over suspicious bets is on the timing of the general election. This has became even more serious, as it emerged that the Tory candidate in question, Laura Saunders, is married to Tony Lee, the Conservative Party’s Director of Campaigning. He is also under investigation along with Nick Mason, the party’s chief data officer and both have taken leave of absence

You couldn’t make it up.

Tesla shareholders back Elon Musk’s $56 billion deal

At a time when Tesla workers have to fight for even a paltry increase the $56 billion deal awarded to Elon Musk is particularly obscene. So much so that a shareholder filed a lawsuit arguing that it was an ‘overpayment’. This was supported by a Delaware judge who annulled the deal. Judge Kathleen McCormick ruled that the board members had been insufficiently independent from the Tesla CEO while negotiating the package.

Most of Tesla shareholders do not agree though that $56 billion is excessive, and have ignored the ruling and approved the package. Musk said this was a big thumbs up to his leadership and an enticement for keeping his focus on his biggest source of wealth.

However, Elon Musk will not be laughing all the way to the bank just yet, if ever. Ann Lipton, a professor at Tulane law school, said the Tesla vote was “unprecedented” and the litigation around the deal would continue.”

Meanwhile Tesla workers in Sweden went on strike after the company refused to sign a collective bargaining agreement. Finland joined in blocking Tesla from their ports, followed by Denmark.  Now Norway is threatening to boycott Tesla too.

Elon Musk may well have to learn that obscene wealth cannot always ride roughshod over organised labour or the law.

Tesco gives struggling workers a slap in the face

Although the figures are nowhere near the huge sums in the Tesla deal, Tesco has also been accused of giving its struggling workers a “slap in the face” after its CEO, Ken Murphy earned almost £10m last year as profits soared.

He was given £9.9m in pay and perks, more than double the previous year and thought to be the most ever for a Tesco boss.

The increase in total pay means that Murphy now earns more than 430 times the average pay at Tesco, up from a multiple of 197 in the previous year. He is one of the best-paid executives among the leading FTSE 100-listed companies, although still well behind Elon Musk and the £18.7m the AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot – could earn this year.

Pay inequality between workers and bosses is increasing. The latest report from the  High Pay Centre released in January this year found that FTSE CEO pay increased by £500,000 (16%) last year at a time when the latest Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast says that real wages won’t even recover to their 2008 value until 2028.

So while working people have been forced to suffer the longest wage squeeze in modern history, City bosses have been allowed to pocket bumper rises and bankers have been given unlimited bonuses.

All the signs are that organised workers will not continue to accept such gross pay inequalities. There is a growing awareness that it is their labour that is fuelling the massive pay increases for the bosses. In April 2024 approximately 17,000 working days were lost due to industrial action in the UK.  In fact since 2022 the UK has experienced a wave of industrial disputes resulting in around 829,000 working days lost due to labour disputes.

The TUC is clear that we need an economy that rewards work as well as wealth. It means taxing wealth fairly and it means a government that is willing to work with unions and employers to drive up living standards for all.

They are clearly pinning their hope for change on a Labour government, although the writing on the wall is that things will not look very different. Labour has certainly made it clear that it will not increase taxes for the super wealthy.

However, the genie is now out of the bottle. Workers across all sectors have made it clear that enough is enough.

Labour will ignore them at their peril.

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