Tax dodging donor gives cash to Uni

Tax dodging donor gives cash to Uni

 

The University has received huge amounts of money from a ‘sex addict’ who avoids an estimated £50million in tax every year.

Last week, Leeds Student exposed the University’s connection with alleged paedophile Jimmy Savile.

In November 2011 Lord Laidlaw gave a £1.15 million donation to fund two scholarship schemes at Leeds.

Since becoming a Tory peer in 2004, the former Leeds student has continually been criticised for refusing to pay his taxes. Lord David Steel, former Liberal leader, described Laidlaw’s behaviour as “publicly unacceptable”.

Laidlaw’s personal life has also come under scrutiny. Three years before his donation, a ‘News of the World’ expose revealed Laidlaw was flying prostitutes to his Monaco tax haven for orgies costing thousands of pounds a night.

The Leeds donor was filmed  in a Monte Carlo hotel room cavorting with several prostitutes. Laidlaw later explained the night was a result of his “sexual addiction”.

Laidlaw’s money funds scholarships for disadvantaged students on the Access to Leeds scheme, providing £9,000 for each student to use towards tuition fees. Another £250,000 goes towards funding five undergraduate research scholars in the School of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications.

The body that regulates the House of Lords repeatedly demanded that he return to the UK and pay his taxes, but Laidlaw refused. As a result, the body named and shamed Laidlaw, in an attempt to get him to vacate his seat in the Lords. Since 2007 Laidlaw has taken an “indefinite leave of absence” from the House of Lords. However, the body cannot strip peers of their titles so Lord Laidlaw can still use his vote in the Lords.

Lord Steel described the situation as “scandalous”, saying that Laidlaw “said to the Appointments Commission that he would give up his tax exile status…In fact, he has done precisely the opposite.”

Despite declining to comment on Laidlaw, the University has responded saying: “Gifts large and small, from our alumni and other donors, continue to provide scholarships, learning opportunities, purchases for our library and support major research projects. These would simply not be possible without our donors’ support; the benefits of their generosity can be felt right across campus.”

A spokesperson also confirmed that a committee “routinely examines the source of donations and potential donations – and has in the past rejected some potential sources of financial support.”

Leeds Student is now calling for the University to introduce tighter restrictions on who can donate to the institution, and will continue to investigate the suitability of its donors.

Words: Max Bruges
Photo: Leo Garbutt

Comment:

There is no doubt that indulging with prostitutes and avoiding your taxes is considerably less heinous than the alleged antics of Sir Jimmy on last week’s front page. However, whatever Savile may or may not have done in this personal life, there is no connection between that and the money he gave to our University. Not so with Lord Laidlaw. He chooses to give money to charities, political parties and us. He chooses not to give money to exchequer and goes to great lengths to minimise his UK tax.

Isn’t it true to say then that accepting his ‘charitable donation’ is a good as condoning his actions? The posturing of philanthropy is one of the key reasons tax avoidance is so often overlooked. Laidlaw gets to hand pick his causes – why should he have this luxury, when the rest of tax-paying Britain has no say in the way the money they contribute is spent? Were he to pay his taxes, that money would get distributed in the way those elected see fit – to the NHS, to Higher Education, to primary schools. Instead, Laidlaw decides which organisations ‘deserve’ his kind donations, and is publically praised in the process. Our own VC is “tremendously grateful” to Laidlaw for his kindness.

With £50 million, how many students could have gone to University this year paying £3k rather than 9? With £50 million, how many students could have gone for free?

Of course he needn’t give anybody any money. And his donations, both in Leeds and elsewhere, undoubtedly help people – those individuals who benefit are not tainted by the money they receive, but rather enriched. However, the student body must ask, if Savile and Laidlaw are acceptable donors, where is the line drawn?

Whatever your opinion on dubious donors, Leeds Student believes it’s important to shine a light on where the University gets its money from. Join the debate on leedsstudent.org and take part in our poll.

 

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