Carillion paid only £94m towards the pension deficit but sent £162m in dividends to shareholders over 2015 and 2016.
Media reports agree with Debbie Abrahams, shadow secretary of state for Work and Pensions that Carillion have failed in their duty to ensure that their pension provision was adequately managed and resourced.
She is on record as pointing out that they could well have done so, in a letter to the regulator, asking whether they were aware of dividends payments to shareholders far higher than the payments to employees’ pensions.
The FT, BBC, Telegraph, Guardian, Reuters and Citywire online reports cover news of the deficit but fail to mention what appears to be preferential treatment for directors
Carillion’s last accounts, to December 2016, show there was a combined deficit on half a dozen defined benefits schemes linked to employees’ salaries of £811m but a surplus on a directors’ scheme of £6m.
Private Eye reporting this asked: “How could most of the company’s pension commitments, covering tens of thousands of employees, be so woefully underfunded when those for a small number were fully financed?”
It notes that the PR firm acting for the trustees (possibly Teneo Blue Rubicon taking over from Bell Pottinger) refused to provide a breakdown of the schemes’ positions, which in the secretive pensions world remain confidential.
Several former directors – who had received large salary, pensions and bonuses -were questioned by the Work & Pensions and BEIS select committees on 6th February, including former chief executive Richard Howson, former finance director, Richard Adam and current chairman Philip Green (above) in an informative article in The Construction Index.
A final PE comment: with ordinary workers facing serious cuts to their retirement incomes, MPs led by pensions select committee chair Frank Field are unlikely to take “no comment” for an answer.
Javelin Park 1: Will GCC approve a Balfour Beatty incinerator despite concerted public opposition – and a poor business case?
Gloucestershire County Council is proposing to build a £500 million Urbaser Balfour Beatty Energy from Waste incinerator at Javelin Park in Haresfield.
UBB officials say it will create new jobs and help the UK meet its renewable energy targets by generating enough electricity from waste to power 25,000 homes.
Alleged vested interests: large power companies and government advisers
A Private Eye journalist reported that 103 incinerator sites were licensed in 2010 and in 2011 DEFRA had 20 more applications from large power companies. Part of the answer was that there are vested interests seeking the proliferation of incinerators. Apart from the companies involved, a large number of government advisers are involved in the expensive and remunerative incinerator PFI deals.
There are several thoughtful and informative articles on the subject by Chris Warne in the Stroud News & Journal.
This plan is opposed by residents, opposition groups and local authorities
Highlighting growing concerns that there will be too many incinerators in the UK by 2015 and that they will severely hamper recycling, Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood tabled Early Day Motion 383, saying that there is mounting evidence that incinerator overcapacity in continental Europe has had a negative impact on recycling performance there and warned that the same problem could trouble the UK.
The motion has received cross-party support – attracting signatures from members of five different political parties, including Daniel Kawczynski (Con, Shrewsbury) and former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas (Green, Brighton Pavilion).
Though all accept that household waste cannot continue to be landfilled, yet there is fierce disagreement about which methods and technologies should be used to dispose of the county’s rubbish.
Gloucestershire Vale Against Incineration (GlosVAIN), which has campaigned long and hard (see flyer opposite), says:
- the plant will be a blight on the landscape, might well pose a danger to human health and
- is outdated technology: there are newer, cleaner and more efficient alternatives on the market.
The United States passed laws in 1997 to measure the emissions of smaller particulates which can be absorbed into the blood. They were passed after articles in the New England Journal of Medicine and studies from Harvard Air Effects Institute reported findings that coal-fired power stations and incinerators had a strong association with overall mortality, cardiovascular deaths and lung cancer.
The Health Protection Agency has now decided to commission a major new study to investigate the possibility of a link between incinerator emissions and child deaths. However, preliminary results from that study, which will also examine a possible connection between incinerator fumes and birth defects, will not be available until March 2014, a year after building work is scheduled to start on the Javelin Park incinerator.
Private Eye also pointed out that DEFRA’s emissions monitoring procedures are lax
None of DEFRA’s 62 monitoring stations (one pictured right) are anywhere near an incinerator. A whistleblowing emissions tester contacted the Eye with information that PM 2.5 is not continuously measured and private emissions testing firms have no duty to report test failures to the Environment Agency. Repeat testing is done by arrangement with the incinerator companies who can change the type of waste burnt on the test day. It concludes that existing stations should implement the stricter monitoring regime of the United States.
A Dundee incinerator (built 2000) breached emission limits in 2007 and 2008. Other modern incinerators breaching limits include Dudley, Dumfries, Wolverhampton and Nottingham. A Dumfries incinerator (2009) had 172 reported emission breaches in its first year. The Environment Agency says “none of the breaches would have caused harm to human health” – a very different approach to that of the US Environmental Protection Agency, which in 2009 and 2011 fined Covanta hundreds of thousands of dollars “for emitting cancer-causing chemicals”.
Sue Oppenheimer, the chairman of GlosVAIN has called on GCC to apply the precautionary principle
She asks for the project to be kept under wraps until the findings of the HPA’s study are known. Stroud District Council, which has unanimously voted to oppose the development, has made the same request.
And even the business case is dubious
Javelin Park incinerator requires a 25-year-contract between Urbaser and GCC for the disposal of household waste produced inside the county. But serious doubts have been raised about whether there is enough waste being created to warrant the construction of an incinerator at Javelin Park. The county council’s forecasts of the amount of waste produced in the county have been shown to be overestimated, with homes currently producing around 20% less waste per year than had been projected – equating to approximately 50,000 tonnes less rubbish per annum for a facility which is being built to process 190,000 tonnes a year.
The only way the shortfall could be made up, campaigners say, is by incinerating more commercial and industrial waste or by importing rubbish to be processed in the plant, which would be unfair to Gloucestershire taxpayers who are footing the bill for the project.
It was to have been funded partly by central government, with Defra awarding GCC £92 million worth of PFI credits in November 2008, but this funding was withdrawn in October 2010 because Defra determined that the UK had adequate incinerator capacity. Objectors believe that public money not should be used to help to pay for a facility which could be used increasingly by the private sector to dispose of its waste.