23 April, 2016
Bristol CCG paves way for health contracts to go to tax-avoiding firms
HEALTH chiefs have paved the way for healthcare tax-dodgers to be given contracts worth billions of pounds in taxpayers’ cash.
Bristol’s clinical commissioning group (CCG) voted yesterday to drop a clause from its constitution that rules out awarding contracts to tax-dodging profiteering companies.
The CCG is one of dozens of local commissioning groups responsible for placing contracts to provide healthcare.
Health service campaigners believe the decision could set a precedent for other CCGs to allow companies that avoid paying taxes by using off-shore tax havens to run NHS services.
The Bristol decision snubs widespread local opposition to dropping the anti-tax-dodger clause following a public consultation on the issue.
Bristol CCG claims it could be sued for “unfair discrimination” against tax-dodging companies if it retains the clause in its constitution.
The decision comes in the aftermath of the Panama revelations which exposed companies depriving the British economy of billions of pounds through tax avoidance.
CCGs receive two-thirds of the NHS’s annual budget of more than £95 billion.
More than 3,500 Bristol people signed a petition against dropping the clause, and protests took place organised by Bristol Protect Our NHS campaign group.
The group is to mount another protest at Bristol CCG’s board meeting next Tuesday from 1.30pm at the Vassall Centre.
Bristol Protect our NHS spokeswoman Dr Charlotte Paterson said: “Bristol CCG has shown itself to be undemocratic, disrespectful and ignorant — far from taking public views into account, it has railroaded through a change in the face of strong public opposition.
“This means that Bristol will be known as the city that hands its health services over to tax avoiders.
“Campaigners are also appalled at the timing of such a decision in the light of the recent Panama Papers revelations on widespread tax evasion and dodgy offshore accounting through havens like the Virgin Islands.”
The group said the decision “ignored the results of its own consultation” and was also opposed by several local MPs and mayoral candidates Marvin Rees, George Ferguson and Tony Dyer.
Among concerns highlighted are that “tax avoiders damage the NHS by reducing government funding and must be resisted by all public bodies” and “using profit-making companies or organisations that don’t pay tax is adding insult to injury — tax is the only source of funding to the NHS.”
NHS Emergency campaign group director John Lister told the Star: “The tax-dodging element of these companies shows that they have very few principles, if any.
“What does that say about the standards of healthcare they will provide?”
He said that privateer Virgin recently won a healthcare contract in Kent.
“They are trying to recruit NHS staff, because they don’t have enough staff of their own to provide a service,” he said.