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osborne embarrassed

Embarrassed: And so George Osborne should be!

What bad luck for George Osborne to get two sums wrong in the same week!

The first sum was a simple times-table question; a school pupil asked him to multiply seven by eight and he couldn’t do it.

The second sum was more serious because it was a sum of money. Rather a lot of money. £1.9 billion, in fact.

The Boy had claimed that around £3 billion in extra tax had been recovered from “high net worth individuals” – tax avoiders – after investigations by HM Revenue and Customs.

Unfortunately, errors in the way HMRC’s performance targets were set meant that these improvements were… well, “overstated” is how the Huffington Post described them.

This meant that, when HMRC said it exceeded its target for tax compliance in 2010-11 by £1.9 billion, in fact it had only just hit its target. The following year, its claim to have exceeded targets by £2 billion was out by the same amount; in fact it had made gains of just £100 million.

There is around £21 trillion in unclaimed, avoided tax sitting in ‘haven’ bank accounts around the world – many of them British territories – and Osborne has managed to collect just £100 million.

Meanwhile unemployed and low-paid working citizens – who have no income apart from state benefits, due to the systematic destruction of the UK’s industrial base by neoliberal politicians who were intent on increasing insecurity among the lower classes – are being starved to death.

Osborne has only himself to blame. When the Coalition government came into office, the Tories insisted that they didn’t need anything like as many public-sector workers as were then on the books – and started laying people off wholesale.

Now the DWP has a claimant assessment backlog of 700,000 for ESA alone (compared with less than 30,000 in May 2010) and the government’s flagship Universal Credit project is hopelessly bogged down, to quote just two examples of the remaining public servants being unable to do their jobs.

Meanwhile, outsourcing of government jobs to private companies has created a disaster: The National Health Service in England is slowly falling over the cliff, with privateers taking so much in profit that the service will go £2 billion into debt next year while waiting times at Accident and Emergency departments continue to increase out-of-control (no matter what lies David Cameron dribbles in Prime Minister’s Questions); a £116 million IT programme arranged with French firm Steria to run staffing, procurement and payroll services for civil servants was scrapped at a cost of £56 million – and then Steria was re-hired to outsource British jobs to India, Poland and Morocco, again at UK taxpayers’ expense.

Does anyone remember the fiasco when G4S was hired to run security at the London Olympics, failed to meet requirements, and the Army had to be called in at the last minute?

Atos and the DWP, anybody?

Andy Hamilton commented on this phenomenon during this week’s News Quiz on BBC Radio 4: “For decades, we have watched governments hand over the utilities and services to companies like G4S and Serco and we have watched as they basically ruined them.

“And then once they’ve ruined them, they get given some more to ruin until they’re running all sorts of services; they’re now huge!

“I still hanker after the good old days when G4S was just Group 4, and its core business was letting prisoners escape from vans.”

Some of us still hanker after the good old days when George Osborne was just a department store employee, and his core business was folding towels.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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