About us

Greene & Greene is a long established firm of solicitors based in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Our lawyers advise individuals and businesses based all over the UK.

We regularly attract new clients who have been using firms in London, but now receive a more cost efficient and more personal service from us here in Bury St Edmunds.

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Thursday
May252017

Greene & Greene continue its sponsorship of The Suffolk Show

The Suffolk Show is the county’s largest two-day visitor experience and a unique celebration of everything that makes Suffolk great, showcasing its agricultural heritage and unique offering of world-beating food and drink.

Greene & Greene Solicitors has been a loyal advocate of the Suffolk Show for a number of years and are delighted to be supporting the event again as joint sponsors of the Honorary Director’s Dinner.  Held the night before the show, the dinner is an opportunity for the judges, stewards and other supporters to raise a glass to the Show’s success.

Jonathan Mathers, head of the firm's agricultural and rural affairs team, is widely respected for his advice on farming matters and is looking forward to this year’s show. “The show seems to get bigger and better year on year, which is a credit to the team at the Suffolk Agricultural Association. Whilst my colleagues and I have enjoyed working with Bill Baker over the past three years, and wish him all the very best for the future, with this year’s show just around the corner we are delighted to join Bee Kemball, the first female director of the Suffolk Show in its 185-year history, at the Honorary Director’s Dinner”

If you would like advice on agricultural and rural property matters please get in touch with Jonathan Mathers via email at jonathanmathers@greene-greene.com or call him direct on 01284 717404.

For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene Solicitors please visit www.greene-greene.com and follow on Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw.

Friday
May122017

Gender pay gap reporting in practice

In December 2016 we reported on how we had been working with clients for a number of months to prepare them for the new gender pay gap reporting procedures.  

In this latest blog employment specialist, Angharad Ellis Owen, takes us through the gender pay gap reporting obligation that came into effect on 6 April 2017.  Whilst there have been some amendments to the initial draft, which was published in January 2017, the final version of the ACAS Guide ‘Managing Gender Pay Reporting’ is now available. The most notable amendment was that the obligation now also applies to public authorities.

Employers have been wondering how the data will be displayed on the government website. Well, the wait is over as the website is now live and at the time of writing, six employers have already uploaded their gender pay gap information.

You can view it here: https://gender-pay-gap.service.gov.uk/Viewing/search-results

The government website

The website has two sections; ‘find employer’ and ‘download data’.  In the ‘find employer’ section, companies are listed by name, address and sector. There is also a function to filter the list of employers by reference to one of 22 sectors.

When selecting the company, the gender pay gap figures are displayed on three ‘tabs’ (1) hourly rate,  (2) pay quartiles, and (3) bonus pay. Surprisingly, despite there being a requirement to publish data relating to the proportion of males and females receiving a bonus payment and the proportion of males and females in each quartile band; the website does not provide this data and I wonder whether this is an omission which will be corrected.

The name of the person responsible for the employer’s report is also clearly stated on the page together with their job title. However, this is not a requirement for public sector employers.

Interestingly, despite the ACAS Guide suggesting that employers’ should provide a narrative to support their gender pay gap report there is no section on the website that enables you to document a supporting narrative.  

The Regulations also state that the information must be published on the employer’s website ‘in a manner that is accessible’.  Many employers are waiting to see how others are publishing the data on their respective websites. At the time of writing, there are two examples of how this has been done and can be seen via the following links:

http://www.contractorumbrella.com/genderpayreporting.html https://www.fdmgroup.com/uk/investors/gender-pay-gap-reporting/

The ‘download data’ section collates all employers’ data into one Excel spreadsheet. With only six companies having published so far, I do wonder whether this spreadsheet will become more sophisticated once greater numbers of employers have uploaded their data. Currently listed in alphabetical order, I also query whether over time, business sector may be included in the spreadsheet to enable the data to be compared by sector thus enabling greater analysis and comparison of the gender pay gap to take place.

Action required

It is important that relevant employers (any organisation that has 250 or more employees) are collating their gender pay gap data and preparing it for publishing.

If you have any questions regarding your obligations to gender pay reporting or any other employment law matters please contact Angharad Ellis Owen (aellisowen@greene-greene.com ~ 01284 717453).  For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene Solicitors please visit www.greene-greene.com and follow on Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw.  

Other useful links

Government website: https://gender-pay-gap.service.gov.uk/Viewing/search-results

ACAS Guide: http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/m/4/Gender_Pay_Reporting_GUIDE3.pdf

Wednesday
May032017

Land Sale Comes Back to Haunt Trustees 

Helen Hendry, a Solicitor in our Commercial Property team emphasises the importance of obtaining professional advice when it comes to the acquisition or disposal of any property on behalf of a charity or a trust.

In 2010, the Spiritual Association of Great Britain Limited (SAGB) decided to sell its headquarters in one of London’s premium locations, 33 Belgrave Square. SAGB had purchased a long lease in the property back in 1955. The association found the running costs of the property were (in their view) “becoming onerous”. SAGB sold the property in 2010 for £6 Million - significantly less than its market value. The property was then quickly re-sold for £21 Million. The Charity Commission raised an inquiry after media reports arose surrounding the sale, which was found to be slightly complicated by a “particularly restrictive clause” concerning the use of the property. SAGB’s lease stated that the property had to be used as a “non-profit, learned or charitable or cultural association or society use or as an embassy”. However, tenants with leases of more than 40 years, with 25 years already expired, can be brought to the Lands Tribunal to seek modification of such covenants.

The Charity Commission report stated the trustees of SAGB had failed to:

  1. Conduct proper due diligence on the prospective purchaser (a BVI “Brass-Plate” Company);
  2. Obtain specialist and independent advice on how to achieve a maximum return on property disposal; and
  3. Obtain, follow, or take proper account of, appropriate professional advice.

The trustees had been advised about a potential change of use, but they believed that it was too speculative. The buyer acquired the property, secured a change of use and sold it for a £15 Million profit. 

The report stated the sale amounted to “a basic mismanagement by [SAGB’s] trustees.” Whilst no evidence was found that the trustees had received any personal benefit from the sale, as trustees owe fiduciary duties to the charitable trust, this left them open to a claim for SAGB’s losses.

Greene & Greene is able to assist in the acquisition or disposal (which includes letting) of properties on behalf of charities, or trusts. For further advice please contact Helen Hendry by e-mail – helenhendry@greene-greene.com or by phone on 01284 717451.

For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene Solicitors please visit www.greene-greene.com and follow on Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw.

Wednesday
Apr192017

The hidden cost of Divorce

If you are separating, issues about tax may not be high on your list of concerns.  Your priority may be whether you can keep your home or, if your home is to be sold, whether you will have enough money to buy somewhere else. However, tax issues could have a significant effect upon your assets and should not be ignored.

Capital Gains Tax

This can be an issue, particularly if you have a number of properties.  We frequently see couples who wish to wait until they have been separated for two years before divorcing.  That can of course be an amicable way of dissolving the marriage, but you need to be aware of potential tax pitfalls.

Transfers between husbands and wives in the tax year of separation can happen on a “no gain no loss” basis, meaning there will be no Capital Gains Tax payable.  This may be difficult to achieve if your separation occurs close to the end of the tax year. 

If transfers of properties, other than the former matrimonial home, do not take place within the tax year of separation then Capital Gains Tax may be payable by the person disposing of their interest to their spouse.  This could lead to a considerable reduction in the assets available to be divided between you.

In relation to the matrimonial home, Main Residence Relief may be available if one party transfers their share to the other, but the disposal must take place within 18 months of the property ceasing to be the other party’s main residence. After that time there are further restrictions if the transfer is to avoid a charge to Capital Gains Tax.

Stamp Duty Land Tax

Once again, there can be issues that you may not have considered, particularly if you intend to wait for a period of time before divorcing.

For example, a couple may separate and the wife may remain living in the matrimonial home, perhaps with the children.  The husband may be in a position to buy his own property and want to do so, rather than paying rent until the time that financial matters are finally resolved.

The husband needs to be aware that he would be acquiring a second property and the purchase of that property is likely to be subject to an additional 3% Stamp Duty Land Tax charge.  On the purchase of a property for £500,000 this would result in Stamp Duty Land Tax of £30,000 rather than £15,000 that would have been payable if the additional charge had not arisen.

It may be possible to reclaim that additional tax payment if that property then becomes the buyer’s main residence within a 3 year period.  However, as can be seen, it will cause a significant increase to the up-front costs involved.

You also need to be aware that a Stamp Duty Land Tax charge applies to owning more than one property whether those properties are located in the UK or worldwide.  Any holiday home owned by you may also cause difficulties.

If you require any further advice regarding divorce or separation please contact Stuart Hughes (stuarthughes@greene-greene.com or call direct on 01284-717493)

The Family Law Department has considerable experience in dealing with cases involving tax issues and are assisted by specialist tax Solicitor Natalie Stoter (nataliestoter@greene-greene.com 01284- 717462)

For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene Solicitors please visit www.greene-greene.com and follow on Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw.

Friday
Apr072017

Subject Access Requests: an Employee’s Motive is Irrelevant

In her latest Blog, Angharad Ellis Owen talks about Subject Access Requests in relation to the Data Protection Act 1998.

Under Section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) an individual has the right to ask what personal data is held about them and to ask for a copy of that data.  This is commonly known as a Subject Access Request (SAR).

A SAR must be made in writing and a data controller (e.g. an employer) is obliged to comply with the request promptly and within 40 days of receipt, if it has received the necessary information from the individual.  Where an employer has failed to comply with the SAR provisions, an individual can ask the Information Commissioner to intervene.

There has been a recent trend for employees, or former employees, to use SARs as a means of obtaining evidence from employers to pursue grievances, seeking documents that may assist in litigation or using the process as a means of making life difficult for employers in order to encourage a settlement.

The obligation on employers to comply with SARs can be onerous and time-consuming. An employer will have to search computerised and non-computerised records for personal data. With the increased use of electronic communication, the volume of personal data can be extensive.  Employers also have to take care to protect the personal data of other individuals who may be identified as part of the search.

Historically, the Courts have held that the main purpose of a SAR was to allow an individual to check how their data was being processed and whether it infringed their privacy.  However, the Court of Appeal has recently considered the motives behind SARs and how they interrelate with ongoing litigation.  The Court has confirmed, as a principle, that a SAR may still be valid even if it is made for the collateral purpose of assisting with litigation.  The Courts have recognised that there is a need for proportionality, but it will fall on an employer to demonstrate that the supply of the information would involve a disproportionate effort.

Action

It is important for businesses and organisations to protect themselves with appropriate training and ensure that their IT and electronic communication policies are robust. It is also important to review, monitor and comply with the organisation’s Data Protection policy.

Useful link

The Information Commissioner has published a Code of Practice on dealing with subject access requests https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-data-protection/.

If you have any questions regarding the Data Protection Act 1998 or any other employment law matters please contact Angharad Ellis Owen (aellisowen@greene-greene.com ~ 01284 717453).  For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene Solicitors please visit www.greene-greene.com and follow on Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw.

Monday
Mar272017

Land Registration – why delay?

Many readers may be surprised if they were to discover that some or all of their land and property is not registered at the Land Registry. But what exactly does that mean and why could it spell bad news?

Firstly, let’s have a look at some of the background to the system of land registration. Following a series of Registration of Title Orders the whole of England and Wales is now subject to compulsory land registration on certain trigger events such as the completion of a sale or mortgage. Compulsory registration was introduced in a piecemeal fashion across the country and in East Anglia the Orders came into effect on various dates, mostly during the 1970s and 1980s. However, much of Suffolk was not subject to compulsory registration until 1 December 1990.

In excess of 80% of the land in England and Wales is now registered but that still leaves large swathes of unregistered land. If land has not been subject to any disposal or mortgage since the locality became subject to compulsory registration, there is a strong possibility it will remain unregistered. This can be particularly common for farmland where the holding is often passed from generation to generation within a family or has been held in the name of a company or the farming partnership for several decades.

If your land is unregistered that means it is not registered at the Land Registry with a title number and title plan and you will need to be able to produce the original deeds as proof of your ownership. This can be easier said than done on many occasions. Historically, banks often held title deeds but following the disappearance of numerous branches and the merger of various institutions in recent years it can sometimes be difficult to trace the whereabouts of deeds packs. If not held by the bank, deeds may be stored by solicitors or at home but there is always the risk of them being mislaid or destroyed. The consequences of losing the original deeds to unregistered land can be serious, with dealings in the land becoming considerably more costly and time consuming as a consequence.

If your land is unregistered, you can make a voluntary application for First Registration at the Land Registry. Here are just some of the benefits of registration:

  • Registered land has state-backed security of title. 
  • The title register provides a record of ownership, so there is no longer a need to produce the historic title deeds as evidence. Duplicate copies of the title register and plan may be obtained from the Land Registry for a nominal fee which gives peace of mind and ends worry about losing deeds.
  • Costs on future dealings should be reduced because the conveyancing procedure is more straightforward and it can also help speed up transactions.
  • It becomes more difficult for anybody squatting on land to claim ownership by adverse possession.

The Land Registry also currently offers a reduced fee for voluntary First Registrations. Greene & Greene has extensive experience in preparing and submitting such applications for all types of property ranging from small plots or individual houses to entire farms.

At a time of great uncertainty, many of our more progressive farming clients are now taking measures to assess their assets and consider the opportunities available to them moving forward. In addition to the benefits stated above, having a registered title makes it easier to clearly identify the extent and value of your land and this can assist in all manner of circumstances whether preparing a schedule of landholding assets or a new Partnership Agreement.

If you require assistance on a possible First Registration or any proposed transaction please contact Tom Andrews (thomasandrews@greene-greene.com or direct on 01284 717407) For more information on the services offered by Greene & Greene Solicitors please visit www.greene-greene.com and follow on Twitter @GreeneGreeneLaw