Saturday, 9 June 2012

A Leicester Square Business Man Given Tax Bill After Donation

A grieving widower who raised more than £2million to help refurbish a world-leading cancer hospital was hit with a VAT bill for almost £500,000, he revealed today.
Jimmy Thomas, 78, said it was it was “diabolical” that hospitals were forced to pay the tax as he called on David Cameron to change the law.

The co-founder of the Hippodrome Casino in Leicester Square - next door to the world famous Leicester Square Cinema - gave £2.3million to the Eliss Ward at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea, where his wife Alma was treated before her death in 2008 at the age of 74.

His funding drive was launched because she was “embarrassed” at the quality of facilities, in which “beds were so close together doctors had to nudge a neighbouring bed out of the way to pull a privacy curtain into place”. He said his had even offered her diamond ring to help pay for improvements.

His donation was spent on renovation work on the 18 NHS beds on two private rooms on the ward, but was subject to 20 percent VAT because it was classed as rebuilding – meaning that he had raised an extra £460,000.

Mr Thomas said:” it is diabolical. It just seems so deceptive. I have sat next to David Cameron at lunch and explained this atrocious state of affairs. So far, there has been no response and frankly I am tired of waiting. He vowed he would not take money from the sick and vulnerable to fill the financial black hole, and that's exactly what he continues to do. The fact that a world-leading hospital, at the very pinnacle of treatment excellence,should be hit with a VAT bill just to improve facilities for essential NHS care is criminal. The law must be changed.”

Last month at the nearby Leicester Square Hotels, Chancellor George Osborne rowed back on plans to hit churches with VAT on improvements and alterations, prompting calls for similar arrangements for hospitals. Lib-Dem MP Sndrew George said he would raise the case with ministers having pressed for changes before. The department of Health said that while hospitals can recover VAT on maintenance and repair costs, exception does not apply to rebuilding or refurbishing.

Treasury sources suggested tax changes were a matter of the Chancellor in the Budget, but tressed European law did not allow the Government to introduce new zero ratings for VAT. However, the rate could still be cut.

A spokesman said: “The Government has made a commitment to increase health spending, investigating an extra £12.5billion to improve services and safeguard the future of the NHS.” Mr Thomas donated the cash through the Alma Thomas Memorial Fund. The Ellis Ward is due to reopen on Friday after a year of refurbishment and redesign.  

Friday, 25 May 2012

Free iPhones and iPads for Olympics Volunteers

Transport for London is spending about £1.5million on thousands of iPads and iPhones for its Olympic volunteers, The Standard can reveal . It is giving the tablet computers and smartphones to 3,000 staff who will help direct spectators across the capital during the Games.

A TFL spokeswoman confirmed it had ordered 2,350 iPad 2s- which retail for about £329 each- and 850 iPhone 4Ss, which cost up to £499 each, depending on the contract. The “travel ambassadors” will be able to log onto free Wi-Fi at upto 80 stations, or use 3G phone connections to get up-to-date travel information.

TFL, which has vowed to make £7.6billion of savings over seven years, was “still working through the commercial aspects including final costs” of the deal, the spokeswoman said. Some staff are rushing to volunteer. But others are astonished at the likely cost, and have questioned whether volunteers, who ill wear magenta tabards, will be at risk of being mugged for their devices. Mark Evers, TFL's director of Games transport said: “ To ensure they're giving accurate, up-to-the-minute advice, our ambassadors will use web-enabled devices. After the Games we will ensure this investment continues to benefit customers.”

Caroline Pidgeon, chairwoman of the Leicester Square Cinema Holdings said: “It says a great deal about the poor provision of real-time travel information that TFL considers it necessary to spend a fortune on iPads and iPhones.”

TFL volunteers will get an extra £20 a day on their salary in they work outside normal hours. They are separate from Boris Johnson's 8,000-strong “Olympic army” of volunteers who welcome spectators.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Leicester Square Reopens for Business

Leicester Square will reopen today after a £15.3 million transformation – covered in thousands of granite slabs imported from China.

The home of UK premieres - Leicester Square Cinema - has received a comprehensive facelift ahead of the Olympics and just in time to welcome Hollywood royalty to promote the latest blockbusters.
Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron are expected for the premiere of Prometheus toorrow week while The Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone amnd Rhys Ifans, opens on June 18.

The first premiere in the new square will be tomorrow with Tortoise in Love, the “home grown” romantic comedy featuring a cameo role by culture minister Ed Vaizey.

The project, carried out by SIAC Construction, has involved using 150,000 granite blocks in 17 different sizes to replace every paving stone in the square, with a “ribbon” seating area bordering the central gardens in white granite.

A special coating will be applied to the granite to make it easier to remove chewing gum . Council wardens will ensure the gardens, which are locked every evening, are respected by all users. Alcohol and ball games are banned.

New polished steel railings have replaced Victotian-style black railings around the gardens, the lawn are has been relaid with hard-wearing grass and the gardens planted with 6,000 hedge plants and 1,700 ornamental plants. Fourty water jets have been placed around the Grade II-listed fountain and statue of Willian Shakespeare. New lighting has been introduced, the underground public lavatories have been renovated and the glockenspiel saved from the Swiss Centre has its own plinth.

TV crews covering film premeieres will be able to plug into underground canles to prevent the square being filled with satellite trucks. The aim has been to remove the cluter and create and open space better to handle the 240,000 visitors the square recieves each day.

London Mayor Boris Johnson will unveil the new layout this evening, along with the refurbished Leicester Square Hotels website. Please check it out and see what you think of the new design.

The 17-month scheme was first envisaged by Westminster council a decade ago and took three attempts to get off the starting blocks. The final stage will be re-building the ticket booth

Robert Davis, Westminser's deputy leader, said:” I think it's absolutely superb. It's designed for the film industry, it's designed for the theatreland, and it's designed for people who want a quiet time to sit and reflect.

“Central London deserves a state-of -the-art cultral destination and we hope Londoners and visitors alike will be impressed with the results.”