Friday, 28 March 2014

Clydeport parent company tax avoidance

An investigation into the Peel Group, parent company of Clydeport, which owns Ardrossan Harbour, has revealed the organisation pays minimal rates of corporation tax.

In the last financial year, the Peel Group declared profits of more than £628m but paid no tax on the sum. Subsidiary company Peel Ports Investment Ltd paid no tax on profits of £104m, while Peel Holdings (Ports) Ltd racked-up profits of £34m and paid no tax.

In a complicated web of intermediate and parent companies, all of the businesses operated by the Peel Group ultimately trace back to Tokenhouse Ltd, which has reported assets totalling £18bn and has its registered office ‘offshore’ on the Isle of Man. Like many other large companies, such as Starbucks and Google, the Peel Group avoids tax liabilities in the UK through a process known as ‘base erosion and profit shifting’, which attributes profits to ‘offshore’ parent companies despite the trade that generated the profits having been carried out in the UK.

the3towns has previously reported the impact of Clydeport’s neglect at Ardrossan Harbour, which is still most prominently visible in a serious breach to the port’s breakwater. The above photo was taken in September 2011 but the breach remains unrepaired.

In July 2011 the3towns also revealed Clydeport had ‘dumped’ stones from the curved facade of Ardrossan’s historic Customs House, which had stood for 150 years at the entrance to the harbour area. In 2010, when permission was granted for the harbour’s owners to demolish the Customs House as part of a major regeneration project, North Ayrshire Council’s Planning Committee imposed a condition that the facade must be retained and incorporated into a proposed new development of office and residential space. The stonework was to have been numbered and stored safely until work on the proposed development commenced.

However, the3towns story of July 2011 showed Clydeport had left the stones lying exposed to the elements on the quayside at the harbour. Identifying numbers were no longer present, making it unlikely the historic part of the Grade ‘B’ listed Customs House could be incorporated into the proposed new-build structure.

Following our story, Clydeport moved the stones to what was described as a secure compound at the harbour, but in September of last year the3towns revealed the area was not secure and that some of the historic stonework was actually being used to prop open the gate of the compound.

Now, the3towns can also reveal that while the SNP Scottish Government is investing around £18m in new berthing and harbour infrastructure in Brodick, no funding is earmarked for the mainland port of the Arran ferry route, apparently because Ardrossan Harbour is in the private ownership of Clydeport.

Strong cross-winds in winter, coupled with a sharp-turn on entering the harbour mouth can make berthing difficult at Ardrossan, a situation that has led islanders to question the logic of investing so heavily in the publicly-owned infrastructure on Arran, while Clydeport apparently has no plans to upgrade facilities at Ardrossan.

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