Monthly Archives: February 2013

War of words over work programme

The Department for Work and Pensions seems to love pushing the public around, but has a real problem when the public pushes back.

Don’t these people understand that they are civil servants?

The system of government is described as a mechanism by which the public elects members of Parliament to serve the interests of the majority, and MPs in turn are supported by the civil service, which is constituted to ensure that those interests are promoted and safeguarded in a practical and legal way.

When MPs get it wrong – as they clearly have in the case of mandatory work activity (MWA) – and the public makes its wishes known, it is not the place of the civil servants to subject those people to derision or to describe them in derogatory terms – even when the harshest language is used to describe the scheme.

That is free speech.

Having looked at the Sue Ryder Facebook page, I have to admit that the charity has a point when it describes “recent online lobbying using strong and emotive language” as the reason it has chosen to quit the scheme.

However I would dispute that it is withdrawing to protect staff from an online campaign of harassment, and I would want to see proof that the claims made about its volunteering practices – with regard to people on mandatory work activity – were misleading.

The simple fact is, the scheme is morally repugnant to the majority of people in this country and Sue Ryder should never have taken part in it. If the charity had stayed away, it would not have exposed itself to criticism.

Behind this lies another simple fact: Any flak taken by Sue Ryder is merely incidental to the escalating war of words between an unrepentant Department for Work and Pensions and an increasingly-embittered British Public.

This is a dialogue that has been running for many years now. It started reasonably enough but the intractability of the government department (civil servants, remember) and the misleading propaganda it purveys has provoked campaigners to increasingly strong reactions.

So perhaps Sue Ryder should put the blame where it belongs – with the Department for Work and Pensions.

The DWP is quoted by the Guardian as saying it was “deeply regrettable that a small number of people have targeted charities and subjected them to intimidation and abuse in an effort to disrupt the operation of this scheme”.

This statement is factually correct. Only a small number of people have subjected charities to intimidation and abuse.

The vast majority – and they number in the tens of thousands at the very least – have been polite. They have put their objections in writing, making reasonable arguments against mandatory work activity.

But they don’t get a mention in the DWP’s slanted appraisal of the situation.

So you see, it is the DWP’s language that is provoking and escalating hostilities. Until that organisation wakes up and remembers that it is an organ of the public will, accepts the majority view that Workfare/MWA is entirely abominable and agrees to put an end to it, the only option open to the rest of us is to find increasingly more strident terms in which to raise our objection.

My own opinion is that this goes back to the general election of 2010. Remember at the top of this article, where I said the mechanism of government is based on the principle that the public elects MPs to represent the will of the majority? In 2010, that didn’t happen.

No political party gained a majority of the vote. The Conservatives wormed their way into office by making a deal with a party that got far fewer votes than even they did. As a result, we are seeing minority-interest policies being forced upon the masses by a minority-interest party that should never have got back into government.

The only way to protest against its policies is to argue against them and to boycott those organisations that support them, and if a government department like the DWP is willing to combat this reasonable behaviour with propaganda then it must expect a savage backlash.

And so must Sue Ryder.

So let’s not have any more whining.

Encouraging words about disability – masking a sinister intent?


Even when David Cameron is saying something positive, we need to look for the hidden meaning, it seems.

This week, in Comedy Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Cameron fielded a query from Liberal Democrat Greg Mulholland about last year’s Paralympic Games. Mr Mulholland said: “We were all hugely inspired by the wonderful Paralympic Games in London last year – not only a triumph for sport but also a triumph for perceptions of disability.

“Will the Prime Minister welcome the ‘Generation Inspired’ report which is going to be presented to Downing Street today, as a great opportunity to use the legacy of this to improve the lives of young disabled people?”

On the face of it, this might seem very bright and noble – reminding us all of our paralympians’ achievements and making a commitment to keep trying to help them, so that their aspirations will not outstrip the support they receive.

But let’s all remember that this question was being put in the same week that Channel 4’s Dispatches programme aired a documentary about the disappointment that awaited our paralympians after the Games – the loss of interest, the loss of help and, crucially, the loss of benefits.

It seems that they are capable of work, you see.

Look at Mr Cameron’s response in this context.

“I thought that the Paralympic Games were an absolute triumph for Britain – the way they were put on, and also the way that the auditoria, the stadia were full for almost every single event.” On the face of it, very supportive.

But then he said: “I thought it was a great testament to the generosity of people in this country and their enthusiasm for paralympic sport, but I think the most important thing is the change in perception about what disabled people are capable of, and I think that is a real gift and something we should encourage.”

A “change in perception about what disabled people are capable of”? This is very worrying indeed. He’s saying that the performances of athletes are comparable to the abilities of other people with disabilities – many of whom struggle simply to get out of bed in the morning and get dressed!

Would he have grouped his late son together with paralympians in the same way?

It is completely unrealistic to compare the two – akin to equating a marathon runner with a 50-year-old woman with a tendency to overweight, who survives on junk food and runs a supermarket checkout all day (with apologies to any such ladies who may exist).

He thinks that’s a “real gift”? There can be only one reason for that – it’s a gift because it supports his government’s policy of clearing disabled people – real, honest, disabled people who deserve state benefits to help them survive – off the benefit books.

If the wider public perception of disabled people is that they can compete and win in Olympic sports, then that’s half Cameron’s work done for him. No wonder he said it was “something we should encourage”!

Perhaps you thought the Paralympics were excellent – and they were. Maybe you thought they struck a blow for recognition of disabled people – and they did.

But not all disabled people are the same. I’m no marathon runner – and I consider myself to be relatively fit.

But I’m not superfit. Neither are the majority of disabled people even remotely able to achieve the feats of our Paralympians.

Cameron should be ashamed of himself for trying to group them all together in this way.

At the very least, Conservatives across the UK should be ashamed of him.

Cameron’s crocodile tears over social housing

The face is red but the heart is black: Cameron's strategy is to say one thing and do something entirely different.

The face is red but the heart is black: Cameron’s strategy is to say one thing and do something entirely different.

Neither Caerphilly MP Wayne David nor the rest of the Labour Party should take seriously David Cameron’s posturing over social housing, as demonstrated in Prime Minister’s Questions today.

Mr David raised the serious question of a disabled couple who have been living in the same house for 26 years, and who will have to pay the government’s ‘bedroom tax’ on the property, starting in April. He asked: “What justification can there be for this?”

Mr Cameron’s initial response was predictable: “This is not a tax; a tax is when someone earns money, it is their money, and the government takes some of it away.”

He’s wrong. A tax is a compulsory contribution to state revenue, levied by the government against a citizen’s person, property or activity, to support government policies. So the ‘state underoccupation subsidy’ – a phrase only coined within the last few months and a measure that will only come into force in April – is a tax, as it is levied against property occupied by citizens of the UK to support government policies.

Let’s see if he fared any better with his next comment: “The party opposite has got to engage in the fact that housing benefit now accounts for £23 billion of government spending – that is a 50 per cent increase over the last decade.”

That is the financial argument – and the fact is, this is no laughing matter. But dreaming up a way of taking money from the poor, simply for the privilege of continuing to live in their own homes, is treating the symptom and not the cause. Mr Cameron makes no attempt to ask why the government is having to spend more on housing benefit because that might reflect badly on his government, its policies, and the fatcat business executives it supports.

Housing benefit is paid to people who are unemployed or disabled. Why are they unemployed? Because of a recession that followed a global economic crash, caused by high-paid banking executives, perhaps. Has Mr Cameron’s government penalised the banking executives? No. Their bonuses are secure.

Housing benefit is also paid to people who are in work but on low incomes. More than nine-tenths of all new housing benefit claims are made by citizens who fall into this category. This means they aren’t being paid enough by their employers to cover all their costs. Isn’t this an indictment against Britain’s business leaders – that they are not willing to pay a living wage for an honest day’s work? Has Mr Cameron’s government stepped in to seek better pay for employees? No. The comedy Prime Minister takes great pleasure in crowing about employment increases but refuses to examine the damaging small print.

And housing benefit, ultimately, does not go to the occupant but goes to the landlord instead – and landlords will continue to receive their full rent, no matter how unjustified the amount or unfit the accommodation. Social landlords, as I have learned to my own cost, are particularly poor at resolving problems. The bedroom tax therefore cruelly impoverishes people who are already on the bread line, using the threat of eviction as the stick with which to beat them. Has the government done anything to dissuade landlords from charging rents that are too high on properties that are not up to scratch – like capping rents? No. This government believes that such action would be unjustified interference in the market.

Mr Cameron concluded: “And we have to address the fact – as well – that we have 250,000 families in overcrowded accommodation and we have 1.8 million people waiting for a council house.”

This is probably the most misleading of all his comments as it attempts to hide a policy his own government is actively pursuing at the moment, and vigorously – the sale of social housing.

According to the BBC, more than 2,000 tenants took up the government’s Right to Buy discount scheme during the last three months of 2012, after the government quadrupled the discount to a maximum of £75,000.

Mr Cameron is selling off social housing and then complaining that there isn’t enough!

It’s typical of Conservative Party policy: Say one thing – do another.

NHS U-turn would be right choice – but for wrong reasons?

Ringing the changes: Jeremy Hunt, pictured a split-second before events proved there are TWO bell-ends in this image.

Ringing the changes: Jeremy Hunt, pictured a split-second before events proved there are TWO bell-ends in this image.

Fellow blogger Sam Bangert just published his latest article, in which he quotes reports in the Telegraph and the Guardian that the government is preparing to withdraw its new regulations that open up the NHS to “compulsory competitive markets”.

It seems that Statutory Instrument 257, that would have seen the demise of the English National Health Service as anything other than a brand name, may be scrapped before it has a chance to wreak the devastation that so many of us fear. That’s a good thing.

The regulations were being brought in under section 75 of the hated Health and Social Care Act 2012, under a process known as ‘negative resolution’. This meant there would be no debate or vote; they would become law 40 working days after they were introduced. In order to fight them, Labour MPs would have had to ‘lay a prayer’, calling for a debate to take place. If they are withdrawn willingly by the government, there’s no need for all that rigmarole.

But there is a very good reason for us to remain extremely suspicious about this affair.

This is not because it’s yet another government U-turn. Yes, we have the most indecisive, vacillating administration in recent British history, but at least in this instance it is doing the right thing.

Having heard Health questions in the House of Commons this morning, one has to wonder whether it is for the right reasons.

You see, comedy Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, knocked back not one but two questions from Labour MPs on this very issue, claiming that the new regulations were nothing more than what Labour would have done.

From Hansard:

“Mr Jamie Reed (Copeland) (Lab): “The hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Angie Bray) asked a key question. Under the secondary legislation being introduced by the Secretary of State under section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, local commissioning groups will be forced to allow private providers into the NHS. These private providers will be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, which will make it harder for patients to compare data between providers. It cannot benefit NHS patients for core clinical services to be given to private providers that do not have to conform to the same standards of transparency as those in the NHS. Will the Secretary of State see reason, ensure a level playing field for the NHS and withdraw the section 75 regulations without delay?

“Jeremy Hunt: “Who exactly are the section-75 bogeymen that the hon. Gentleman hates: Whizz-Kids who are supplying services to disabled children in Tower Hamlets, or Mind, which is supplying psychological therapy to people in Middlesbrough? The reality is that those regulations are completely consistent with the procurement guidelines that his Government sent to primary care trusts. He needs to stop trying to pretend that we are doing something different from what his Government were doing when in fact we are doing exactly the same.”

Later in the same session, the following exchange took place:

“Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab): “On 13 March 2012, the former Secretary of State said of the Health and Social Care Bill:“There is absolutely nothing in the Bill that promotes or permits the transfer of NHS activities to the private sector.”—[Official Report, 13 March 2012; Vol. 542, c. 169.]However, the new NHS competition regulations break those promises by creating a requirement for almost all commissioning to be carried out through competitive markets, forcing privatisation through the back door, regardless of local will. Will the Secretary of State agree to make the regulations subject to a full debate and vote of both Houses?

“Jeremy Hunt: If the hon. Gentleman had listened to my previous answer, he would have heard that the regulations are consistent with the procurement guidelines that his own Government sent out to PCTs. It is not our job to be a champion for the private sector or the NHS sector; we want to be there to do the best job for patients. That is the purpose of the regulations.”

If one thing is perfectly clear from these exchanges, it is that the well-known Misprint was not going to be corrected!

Then, a matter of moments later, this happened:

“Andrew George (St Ives) (LD): “In spite of my right hon. Friend’s earlier comments, I am afraid that the regulation that implements section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 does not maintain the assurances previously given and risks creating an NHS that is driven more by private pocket than concern for patient care. Will the Secretary of State please withdraw that regulation and take it back to the drawing board?”

“Norman Lamb, Minister of State, Department of Health: “We are looking at this extremely seriously. Clear assurances were given in the other place during the passage of the legislation, and it is important that they are complied with in the regulations.”

If you are re-reading that, thinking to yourself, “What just happened?”, you’re not the only one!

Mr George added nothing to what the Labour members had said – nothing at all. Yet Mr Lamb’s attitude was a complete, utter and ludicrous reversal of his Secretary of State’s.

He practically tugged his forelock and murmured, “Yes sir, koind master!”

Is this some ridiculous attempt to make it seem that the Coalition is still strongly united?

Is it some bid to show that, no matter what the result of the Eastleigh by-election, they’ll still be friends, working together “for the good of the country” (if anyone still believes that)?

At its lowest level, is it an attempt to show the Liberal Democrats that they are still relevant to British politics?

If so, then it should fail, precisely because the only points made by the Liberal Democrat member had previously been made by Labour.

If the Conservatives try to say the decision was changed because of the Lib Dems – as the Guardian seems determined to suggest – then we should laugh them out of the Commons chamber.

We will all pay for the raid on Legal Aid

lord bach

The House of Lords: The more one hears of the debates there, the more one is impressed by them.

One side of them, at least.

For example the debate on the Benefits Uprating Bill, that took place on Tuesday, including a fascinating interlude by Lord Bach, in which he made explicit the meaning of the government’s planned withdrawal of Legal Aid for benefit claimants.

The government claims the intention is to save money, but Lord Bach (pictured) made it perfectly clear that there will be no saving at all, in the end.

One is left with the only possible alternative – that this vindictive government of millionaires intends to make it impossible for the poorest and most vulnerable in society to seek legal redress against cruel and unwarranted decisions that will withdraw from them the money they use to keep themselves a hairs-breadth away from destitution.

It is a decision to attack the poor for the fun of it.

Don’t take it from me; here’s how Lord Bach put it:

“What is so often left out of the arguments about welfare reform… is what potential real remedy the citizen will be left with if the department’s [of Work and Pensions] decision is wrong. Surely the fact that it is wrong in many cases is not in question. We all know that, with the best will in the world, decisions made by the department are often wrong and very much to the disadvantage of those who want to claim them.

“For a long time, this has not been a pressing problem. For those requiring legal advice on their benefit entitlements, Legal Aid has been available – if, of course, these people came within the criteria for Legal Aid, and many did.

“For a small amount of Legal Aid, quality advice has been available, having the effect of both stopping – this is important in cost terms – hopeless claims and establishing good claims where appropriate. It is a system that worked. Putting it at its highest, it has allowed access to justice for all.

“At a slightly lower level, it has meant that tribunals have not been faced with an impossibly large number of cases, many of which should never have been brought in the first place.

“It has cost a fraction of the total Legal Aid budget and is paid to lawyers who are not by any standards well paid. Yet from April 1, as a deliberate act of government policy, this legal help will no longer be available for anyone in cases relating to welfare benefit entitlements.

“Thus, people will not be able to get the advice to which they are entitled. Their access to justice will be gone. The department will get away with wrong decisions and tribunals will be overburdened with what I can only describe as rubbish cases – all to save £25 million per year on welfare benefit advice.

That is one-tenth – I repeat, one-tenth – of the amount set aside by the Department for Communities and Local Government so that there can be weekly rather than fortnightly collections of rubbish. Is this really a proper sense of priorities for a time of austerity?

“Further, everyone who knows anything about this agrees that this is not likely to be a saving at all in the end.

“The state… will eventually have to pick up the pieces when things get much worse than they need to. How can the Minister or any government justify this either in terms of common decency, which should appeal to this House and normally does, or even under the rule of law?”

We all thought the Tories would be left heartbroken after the Hunting Act took away their favourite extracurricular pastime.

It seems they have found another blood sport to replace it.

Battle is joined – for the future of your NHS


This week the Labour Party will be launching its formal defence of the National Health Service, after the Coalition government stealthily slipped a “negative resolution” to enforce privatisation onto the books before the Parliamentary recess.

The resolution, as mentioned in a previous Vox article, will force clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England to introduce competition to provide all services for which it is practical (in other words, almost everything), whether or not they believe it to be in the best interests of all concerned.

Its arrival means either the government lied when it gave the promise that neither the Health Secretary nor Monitor would be allowed to force health commissioners to put services out to competition, or it has decided to break firm, formal promises, written by Andrew Lansley in a letter and spoken on the record in Parliament.

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, has announced that the party will ‘lay prayers’ against the resolution in both Houses of Parliament, and will fight “tooth and nail” to defeat it.   He has repeated his firm, unambiguous commitment to repeal the 2012 Health and Social Care Act as a priority once Labour is back in government, and to restore the lead on the commissioning of health services to local government.

If Labour win the next General Election, he will reintroduce a preferred provider policy that will allow genuine NHS organisations to be named as the providers of choice, thus ensuring that the NHS remains, at its core, a public institution. This will restore the NHS to leadership of health service provision, alongside local government as the commissioning lead.

But by that time much irrevocable damage will have been done, so concerted interim action is needed – and it is heartening that CCGs in Haringey and Bristol are already leading the way.

In Haringey, the CCG has been persuaded by campaigning organisation 38 Degrees to adopt amendments to its constitution, ensuring that they will only invite competition to buy services where “necessary or appropriate”. Contractors/providers must be “good employers” – be reputable, meet tax and NI obligations and keep to EO legislation. Other amendments exclude companies convicted of offences, and   prohibit companies that use improper tax avoidance and off shore schemes.

That is just the start of the battle for the NHS – but it’s a good one, and an example that can be taken forward.

Haringey has accepted that there is a case for arguing that awarding tenders to private providers will cause genuinely public structures to atrophy as funds are taken out of the public health economy and turned into private profits. This would be to the long-term detriment of the NHS, meaning an award to a private bidder is worse value, even if the headline price is lower.

If you are in England and concerned about the decline that the government’s negative resolution will instigate, why not get in touch with your own local CCG, ask them to examine the actions of their colleagues in Haringey, and politely request that they go and do likewise?

Expect much more on this issue in the future. It will be published here as it becomes available.

Is this the way to get through to Iain Duncan Smith?


Someone just posted a story on the Vox Facebook page, that should be familiar to many of you.

He was quoting a person whose cousin was on disability benefit, dying of liver failure. The DWP stopped her benefit and she had to appeal against it, enduring eight weeks of “worry, hopelessness and grief” before dying two days before her family received notification that her appeal had been granted.

This is not an unusual story. In fact, it is the behaviour we have come to expect from the department run by Iain Duncan Smith. He puts innocent people, who deserve their disability benefits, through physical and mental hell, and then they die. He then puts their families through the emotional hell of knowing that their loved one should never have had to go through that terrible process.

But Iain Duncan Smith is supposed to be a member of the Roman Catholic Church with strong religious beliefs.

The Bible (2 John 10-11) says, “whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God”. I’d say the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is a repeat transgressor in the most satanic way.

So why doesn’t somebody have him excommunicated?

In Catholicism, excommunication is a “medicinal penalty” intended to invite the person to change behaviour or attitude, repent, and return to full communion.

It might be just what he needs to encourage him to repent his wicked ways…

After all, everything else has failed.

Further humiliation for Osborne and HMRC over tax avoidance

0sborne has every reason to be red-raced with embarrassment over his pitiful record regarding tax avoidance. Parliament's public accounts committee has done all the hard work for him and he still can't put it into practice!

0sborne has every reason to be red-raced with embarrassment over his pitiful record regarding tax avoidance. Parliament’s public accounts committee has done all the hard work for him and he still can’t put it into practice!

Revenue and Customs bosses, reeling from the broadside they took for claiming the UK’s tax-dodging public enemy number one was a hairdresser from Liverpool, can take no solace from the attitude of Parliament’s own public accounts committee.

Three days before HMRC published its silly little list, the committee called on it to “publically name and shame” all organisations and individuals who sell or use tax avoidance schemes, in order to discourage such activity.

The fact that the organisation has not taken the opportunity to do so serious undermines its position.

Let’s have a look at what the UK Parliament’s website – – has to say about the government’s stance, because the criticism is so heavy it’s almost funny:

Tax avoidance—using tax law to gain a tax advantage not intended by Parliament—reduces the money available to fund public services and is completely unfair to the majority who pay the tax due. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) estimates that in 2010-11 the tax gap due to avoidance was £5 billion. HMRC further estimates that the present total tax at risk from avoidance over time is £10.2 billion.

In Australia, promoters have to get clearance for schemes before they introduce them. An advance ruling system of this type could deter contrived avoidance schemes and increase certainty in the tax system. Australia has also introduced powers to fine those who promote schemes that could not reasonably be expected to work or comply with the advance ruling system.

“Promoters of ‘boutique’ tax avoidance schemes like the one brought to our attention by the case of Jimmy Carr, are running rings around HMRC,” said Margaret Hodge, chair of the public accounts committee.

“They create schemes which exploit loopholes in legislation or abuse available tax reliefs, such as those intended to encourage investment in British films, and then sign up as many clients as possible, knowing that it will take time for HMRC to change the law and shut the scheme down.

“Their clients can then take advantage of this window of opportunity to make a lot of money at the expense of the taxpayer, while the promoter simply moves on to a new scheme and repeats the process. It is a game of cat and mouse and HMRC is losing.

It has allowed a system to evolve where the die are loaded in favour of the promoters of tax avoidance schemes. The complexity of tax law creates opportunities for avoidance, there are no penalties to stop people promoting these schemes, and HMRC is ineffective in challenging promoters who are deliberately obstructive or deliberately sell schemes they know do not work. Promoters pocket their fees whether their schemes work or not.

“There is also a lack of transparency that makes it very hard to find out who is involved in marketing or using these schemes. HMRC publicises details of schemes that do not work but does not name the promoters or the clients. We have seen how public anger and consumer pressure can influence large companies, such as Starbucks, to behave more responsibly.

HMRC should publically name and shame those who sell or use tax avoidance schemes in order to discourage such activity. With at least £5 billion lost to tax avoidance each year, HMRC has got to get much more robust in its approach.

“The requirement that promoters give early notification to HMRC of new schemes has resulted in the swift closure of some. But the Department does not know how many promoters simply choose to ignore the requirement. We are also alarmed to hear that promoters are getting off paying fines for not disclosing their schemes by pleading that, in the opinion of a QC, they have a ‘reasonable excuse’ for non-disclosure. HMRC is right to explore how to make it more difficult for this tactic to work.

“The number of cases HMRC takes to court is tiny compared to the overall caseload. It must make use of the additional resources it has been given to act much more urgently to investigate and close down new schemes and to bring more cases to court.

“Since our hearing, the Government has announced that it is consulting on draft rules designed to allow departments to ban tax-avoiding businesses from being awarded government contracts. This is a welcome move but we will want to monitor closely how any such rules are applied in practice.”

I wonder if the rules on banning tax-avoiding businesses from taking up government contracts will ever see the light of day?

No wonder Osborne can’t pay his debts – he’s chasing hairdressers for tax-dodging!


It is no surprise at all that the UK has lost its triple-A credit rating from make-it-up-as-you-go Moody’s.

The change has been expected since before Christmas, but that doesn’t make it any less significant. Gideon George Osborne spent the first years of this Parliament using it as a stick to beat Labour – that the UK’s credit rating was the best it could be, thanks to his policies, not theirs.

That was a lie, of course. Others who know more about such matters can better explain the reasons but they have more to do with the value of bonds and savings than anything he did to improve the economy.

Like all credit rating agencies, Moody’s is a group of people who meet every so often and decide on particular countries’ scores, based on nothing more concrete than their own personal opinions. They can’t predict the future; they can only react to the present. That’s why they’re dubbed “make-it-up-as-you-go” at the top of this article.

But you can work out what that means, at this moment in time: 0sborne can’t pay his debts.

That’s astonishing. This is the world’s sixth largest economy, according to the International Monetary Fund. We make staggering amounts of money every year, so the operative question now is: Why the blazes can’t he pay his debts?

The answer lies in another story that broke last week – HM Revenue and Customs’ list of tax dodgers.

This is the list compiled by HMRC in response to public outrage against the tax-dodging schemes of large corporations like Starbucks, Amazon, the water companies mentioned in this blog before Christmas, Vodafone, Arcadia group and so on.

Who do you think this list marks out as public enemy number one?

A hairdresser from Liverpool.

Apparently this person was scalped of £17,000 for deliberate default. Others include a knitwear firm, a wine firm and a pipe fitter.

Meanwhile the amount of cash seeded away in offshore tax havens by the UK’s super-rich is estimated at £21 trillion. That’s 21 TRILLION – more than enough to pay all of our debts and put us back into surplus.

0sborne continues to use the ‘Big 4’ accountancy firms – all of whom operate many tax avoidance schemes for clients – to write the law on tax avoidance; and he changed the law to allow large companies great opportunities to avoid paying tax in the UK.

0sborne himself, remember, was identified as having profited from tax avoidance himself, and in fact offered advice on tax avoidance in a TV interview, while David Cameron’s family made a fortune on tax avoidance schemes.

There is only one conclusion to be reached: The Chancellor is using the HMRC list to laugh at us. He’s mocking the poor, who have to pay tax no matter what. He’s not going to level the playing field because that would harm his own profits and those of his friends.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer is deliberately harming the UK economy.

Cream and park, George; if your contractors do it, why won’t you?


It’s no surprise that Gideon George Osborne will have to humiliate himself next month, admitting that borrowing this year will go up and not down – as he predicted. Rational minds have told him this is the only possible result of lower tax receipts and higher spending.

But why is spending still on the rise?

Is it because – as we can assume logically from the lower tax receipts, and from headline reports about Jessops, HMV, Republic and others – more people are claiming out-of-work benefits, having lost their jobs recently?

Possibly – but that’s not helpful. Those people have paid taxes and National Insurance into the system and have a right to their benefits (no matter what the likes of Iain Duncan Smith might say).

Is it because the government is giving too much money to private companies for contracted-out work?


Atos springs to mind immediately. The amount that company alone takes from the national bank account is exorbitant and unwarranted, especially when one considers the cost it creates every time the government loses an appeal decision.

There is also, as we learned today, the cost created by the work programme provider companies.

We know from results gained last year that the work programme – which appears to cost up to £1 billion per year, if the BBC figures are to be believed – was worse than useless in improving employment prospects for the unemployed people it was supposed to help.

The government says it is “early days” for the scheme, but this seems unlikely. It is a failure that voters are unlikely to tolerate in the future, and therefore let’s assume that it will be closed down after the 2015 election that neither the Conservatives nor the Liberal Democrats are going to win. That will save some money, and it’ll be a popular choice for whatever form of government we get thereafter.

Assuming that to be the case, we should be asking Mr 0 why he doesn’t adopt a strategy that we all know these companies use in order to boost their profits. Because they get paid on results, they concentrate on people more likely to generate a fee and sideline jobless clients who need more time and investment – a process known as “creaming and parking”.

In other words…


It’s time to “park” all the work programme provider companies – A4E and the like – along with Atos, of course. The money saved will total billions, and might help Gideon reach this year’s deficit target!

And the “cream”?

That’s a little harder. Can anyone think of a single private contractor for public services that has ever – ever – provided good value for money and produced a creditable job? Anyone? No?

Maybe the best we can say is this will stop the directors of those companies “creaming” taxpayers’ money and putting it in their offshore bank accounts.