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BT broadband 'not impacting on rural communities'

BT is "not impacting on rural communities" despite winning all of the rural broadband contracts from the Government, the head of an influential committee has said.

Labour's Margaret Hodge warned other competitors "might be squeezed out" of the rural broadband market by BT's dominance.

Whilst BT claims it is making further concessions, this is not impacting on rural communities.

Local authorities are still contractually prevented from sharing information to see if they are securing best terms for the public money they spend.

Communities can still not access the detailed data they need to understand whether they will be covered by BT's scheme in their area.

Other broadband providers might be squeezed out of the rural market by BT's actions.

– Margaret Hodge

Read: BT accused of rural broadband monopoly

BT accused of rural broadband monopoly

BT has an "effective monopoly" over rural broadband after the Government awarded all of the 44 contracts from the £1.2bn scheme to the telecommunications giant, a group of influential MPs has said.

Read: Children's education affected by 'slow internet speeds'

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BT's position as a monopoly supplier should have raised a "red flag", PAC said. Credit: PA

Read: 'Rural penalty' marring country life

In another another scathing report of the rural broadband scheme the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the way it had been set up "failed to deliver meaningful competition".

This meant BT had been put in a strong position by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) making it more difficult for customers to insist on value for money, according to PAC.

Margaret Hodge, who chairs PAC, said: "Since our hearing in July last year, when 26 of the 44 contracts to deliver this were with BT, all remaining contracts have now also gone to BT.

"Despite our warnings last September, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has allowed poor cost transparency and the lack of detailed broadband rollout plans to create conditions whereby alternative suppliers may be crowded out."

Read: BT's 'near monopoly' of rural broadband attacked by MPs

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Royal palaces 'cost an absolute fortune' to maintain

Robert Jobson
Robert Jobson said Buckingham Palace needed major renovation work. Credit: Daybreak/ITV

Royal palaces "cost an absolute fortune" to maintain so it is not surprising the Queen's household has spent as much as it has done, a royal expert told Daybreak.

Robert Jobson defended Her Majesty for not doing more to reduce costs as palaces were already crumbling due to lack of upkeep.

"Basically, these buildings cost an absolute fortune to maintain, [Buckingham] palace in particular is crumbling in certain areas, has not been rewired since the 50s, certain rooms are not even decorated. This is a national monument in my opinion."

He continued: "It could possibly be opened to the public but the truth is that there has been a cut in real terms and so they had to spend the money where they could."

Watch: Renting Buckingham Palace 'could make more money'

Renting Buckingham Palace 'could make more money'

Buckingham Palace could be used to make more money for repairs Margaret Hodge, Public Accounts Committee chair has said.

Hodge also spoke of repairs needed at the royal residence, such as the boiler which has served the palace almost as long as the Queen and should be replaced due to the increasing costs of running it according the sixty-year-old appliance.

Buckingham Palace: 'We are generating more money'

The royal household was charged by the PAC in 2009 to generate more income to supplement the funding it receives from Government. This has been done successfully. In 2012-13 the Household generated £11.6 million in comparison with £6.7 million in 2007-8. Work on income generation continues.

A significant financial priority for the royal household is to reduce the backlog in essential maintenance across the occupied royal palaces. Recent examples of work include the renewal of a lead roof over the royal library at Windsor and the removal of asbestos from the basement of Buckingham Palace. The need for property maintenance is continually assessed.

– Buckingham Palace spokesperson

Treasury 'failing to review royal financial management'

Margaret Hodge, the PAC's chairman, criticised the Treasury for failing to be more actively involved in reviewing the household's financial planning and management, including in the plans to maintain historical buildings.

A Treasury spokesman said: "The new arrangements established by the Sovereign Grant Act have made the royal finances more transparent than ever while providing the long term stability necessary for good planning.

The PAC's report has failed to properly account for these changes."

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No royal household cuts despite public sector austerity

 Royal Demi Chef De Partie in the kitchens at Buckingham Palace.
Royal Demi Chef De Partie in the kitchens at Buckingham Palace. Credit: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

The royal household's staffing levels have remained largely static at around 430 people, during the past seven years, to allow it to maintain the Queen's programme.

However this contrasted with the public sector which had seen employee numbers cut during the same period, and yet the sector was still expected to increase efficiency with fewer workers.

Queen's household told it could do more to cut costs

The Queen's household has been told it could do more to reduce costs.
The Queen's household has been told it could do more to reduce costs. Credit: Matt Crossick/Matt Crossick/Empics Entertainment

The Queen's royal household could do more to reduce its costs and increase income, and must get a firmer grip on a huge backlog of property repairs, a committee of MPs has said.

The household also needs to plan and manage its budget better for the long term, a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recommended.

The report produced by the PAC looked at the Sovereign Grant, the financial system funding the monarchy, and last October its MPs questioned Sir Alan Reid, Keeper of the Privy Purse, about the financial affairs of the household.

Tax authority 'seeks to collect all that is due'

HM Revenue and Customs has defended its recorded in the wake of a parliamentary report that has accused it of holding back on using sanctions against multinational companies, while pursuing small businesses and individuals.

Read: Tax authority 'fails to collect £35b' from big businesses

HMRC seeks to collect the tax that is due from all taxpayers, so that everyone pays their fair share in accordance with the tax laws passed by Parliament.

We have secured more than £50 billion of additional tax from our compliance work since 2010, including £23 billion from large businesses.

We have carried out 2,345 prosecutions for tax evasion in the last three years, including of high-profile accountants and lawyers, have halved the number of disclosed tax avoidance schemes and have protected more than £2.4 billion from marketed tax avoidance schemes this year alone.

– HMRC spokesman

Watch: Government 'not pursuing tax avoidance' with big firms

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