Tag Archives: neglect

The Tories axed their defence against coronavirus years before it arrived. Deaths were inevitable


Not only has Boris Johnson’s response to coronavirus sparked ridicule around the world, but he is also being pilloried for failing to do anything to prepare for it.

It seems to validate criticisms that he was hoping the pandemic would simply kill off all the so-called “useless eaters” – people on benefits with illnesses or disabilities that make them vulnerable to Covid-19 – meaning that his government wouldn’t have to support them any more.

According to the Huffington Post, the Cabinet Office has been producing a National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies – a list of possible disasters that may face the UK – along with plans to deal with them.

Every such document – every single one – has listed pandemic flu as the most probable and devastating threat to the UK.

The government knew it was coming – but the strategy to deal with it was written in 2011 and is therefore many years out-of-date.

Also out of date is the government’s UK Pandemic Influenza Communications Strategy, the crucial document for getting the right messages across to the public. It was written in 2012 and is wildly inaccurate in its assumptions about how and where people now get their information.

It gets worse.  The guide to dealing with the fatalities of the pandemic, complete with supposed key named contacts, was last published in 2008.

And the dedicated government Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Team based in the Department of Health, and tasked with tackling this type of crisis, vanished around 2011.

That’s right – the Tories got rid of the organisation that would have had the expertise to deal with coronavirus, way back in the first round of austerity-driven cuts.

How short-sighted can these daft toffs be?

The Tories deliberately divested themselves of the latest evidence, policy or science.

HuffPost says this means “the government has had to either make policy up as it has gone along or is having to beg, borrow and steal from other countries who have been better prepared”.

It means that lives have almost certainly been lost unnecessarily.

And the rest of the world is well aware that Boris Johnson has been a bigger danger to the British public than the disease itself, as The Guardian has reported.

Greek newspaper Ethnos described him as “more dangerous than coronavirus”. It said: “Boris Johnson had gone out publicly and essentially asked Britons … to accept death.”

“Boris Johnson is gambling with the health of his citizens,” said the Irish Times.

The HuffPost‘s claim that Johnson had been trying to catch up because his party had rid itself of all its own useful guidance is borne out by The Guardian‘s sources:

Politicians, scientists and commentators greeted the prime minister’s U-turn on Monday night, when he ordered a UK-wide lockdown, as a belated but welcome decision to join the rest of Europe, and much of the world, in a necessary strategy.

The mystery is why it took so long.

After the prime minister’s sudden reversal, one official in Dublin expressed relief. “The Brits were doing their own thing and it looked like we were going to have to live with it. They got there in the end.”

It was a variation of an observation attributed to Winston Churchill about America doing the right thing after exhausting all other options.

Last week the prime minister made an initial concession to physical distancing – a key tactic to slow contagion – by asking people to avoid pubs. But he did not close them and many people, including his own father, Stanley, cheerily said they still planned to go out for a drink. Nevertheless, Johnson expressed confidence such limited measures were working and could “turn the tide” within 12 weeks.

Many outsiders were aghast. The pandemic was out of control in Italy and Spain, killing thousands, and surging across the globe, prompting a scramble to emulate Chinese-style lockdowns.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, reportedly threatened to close France’s border with Britain last Friday if it did not intensify measures.

Others worried about the fate of friends and relatives in Britain. Giorgio Gori, the mayor of Bergamo, the city hardest hit by Italy’s coronavirus outbreak, flew his two daughters out of the UK, deeming them safer at home.

Let that sink in.

Italy is the country hardest-hit by coronavirus, and the mayor of the Italian city that was hardest-hit flew his own children back there, because he thought they would be safer there than in the UK.

Looking at all the evidence, doesn’t he have a point?

Source: The Government Knew A Pandemic Was Coming But They Didn’t Do Anything To Prepare | HuffPost UK

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A man left a note blaming the DWP for his suicide – and it is STILL trying to evade responsibility

If delegates at the Labour conference thought Jodey Whiting was a solitary case of DWP negligence leading to death, they should consider that of Ayman Habayeb.

Ms Whiting’s mother, Joy Dove, told delegates at a Labour conference fringe meeting how the Department for Work and Pensions ignored its own safeguarding procedures on five separate occasions before her daughter committed suicide.

And the DWP destroyed a document detailing similar failures on only 18 other Job Centres, after a Freedom of Information request was submitted, demanding its release.

Now we learn of Mr Habayeb, a 28-year-old man who was diagnosed with autism and depression, who took his own life after the DWP cut his benefits and he became unable to afford food.

A detailed suicide note was discovered on his computer by his grieving parents.

It described how he was ordered to attend a “work capability assessment” and refused.

He wrote: “I attended one before. The outcome was they reduced my benefits and completely ignored my needs.

“Such assessments are obviously not meant to help the disabled stay on benefits but to instead save the government money.

“I cannot be bothered to fight this any more. I am out of energy. I only exist to do what I want to do. Dealing with paperwork, making phone calls, and feeling anxious every day about whether I am going to be homeless are things I do not want to do.”

That note was written in summer 2018, and in November he hanged himself in his Milton Keynes flat.

So why are you only reading about it now? Because his body was only found last month, nine months later, when housing association officials called – to evict him.

Despite the fact that Mr Habayeb had named the DWP in his suicide note, a spokesman for that department of the Conservative government still tried to deny that it bore any responsibility for the tragedy – by hiding behind the fact that an inquest had yet to take place.

And he fell back on an old standby argument that the DWP has been using for several years now.

He said: “Suicide is a very complex issue and while the inquest examines this tragic case, it wouldn’t be right to draw conclusions.”

Going back to Ms Dove: she started a petition for an independent inquiry into DWP-related deaths. The government has refused – point-blank – to hold one, in spite of all the evidence that its civil servants have caused many deaths – more than 100,000 are known.

If we must wait until after an inquest to draw conclusions about Mr Habayeb’s death, isn’t it only fair that we should hold that independent inquiry – to be able to draw conclusions about all the others as well? Or do the Tories already know what it would say?

Source: Autistic Milton Keynes man left suicide note on computer explaining tragic reasons he took his own life – Milton Keynes Citizen

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Poverty is the enemy of good mental health. Why do Tories increase it?

Epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson. He ‘found that poverty and social inequality have direct and indirect effects on the social, mental and physical wellbeing of an individual,’ writes Maureen Tilford [Image: Linda Nylind for the Guardian].

It’s a classic example of failed Tory thinking.

They say they want the NHS to work properly, within the budgets set out for it – but then they worse conditions in society, forcing more people to seek medical help.

In this case, more people are seeking help with mental illnesses because of poverty that has been forced on them by stupid Tory austerity policies.

Only yesterday, This Site published an article on medical experts’ plans to record social issues including poverty as contributing factors to mental illness.

Now, people have been writing in to The Guardian to support political action against poverty – precisely to stop it affecting mental health.

Here’s Dr Maureen Tilford:

As far back as 1963, research by Langer and Michael found that psychiatric conditions not only occur at higher rates in the poorest areas, but also cluster together, usually in disintegrating inner-city communities. Money is not a guarantor of mental health, nor does its absence necessarily lead to mental illness. However, it is generally conceded that poverty can be both a determinant and a consequence of poor mental health.

More recently, the epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson found that poverty and social inequality have direct and indirect effects on the social, mental and physical wellbeing of an individual. It is clear that poverty and inequality are closely linked and that income inequality produces psychosocial stress.

The wealth gap in the UK is greater than at any time since the first world war and continues to grow. Unless this is addressed at a most senior level in government, the demand on the police will continue, not to mention the suffering of all those callers. This cannot be viewed as a purely health service issue. Allowing the wealth gap to spiral out of control is having serious adverse effects on the UK population on many levels.

And Reverend Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty has this to say:

Prevention of mental illness, and hunger created by low income and debt, requires an increase in taxation and unemployment benefits which many of us would be willing to accept. Central government is making households destitute by shredding unemployment incomes and then stopping them with the benefit sanction, allowing zero-hours contracts and by rolling out the universal credit. Local government then taxes the benefits and sends in the bailiffs to collect the inevitable arrears, adding court costs and huge bailiffs’ fees.

It takes a very rare degree of resilience for mental health to withstand three powerful government departments shelling out threats of bailiffs, prison, eviction and homelessness against a single debtor, who is often struggling to put food on the table for dependent relatives. As Psychologists Against Austerity have reported, such abuses of power are creating humiliation, shame, fear, distrust, instability, insecurity, isolation and loneliness in trapped and powerless citizens.

Source: Poverty is at the heart of mental health crisis | Letters | Society | The Guardian


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Links between benefits and mental ill-health could be recorded by doctors in new plan

[Image: Getty/iStock].

The link between disability benefit assessments, mental health problems and increases in suicide rates could be made explicit in a new plan announced in medical journal The Lancet.

Kate Allsopp and Peter Kinderman have called for mental health professionals to record psychosocial codes in official NHS records, to show whether a patient is suffering from the effects of social inequality, poverty or trauma.

Links between the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and an increase in suicides, mental health problems, and prescription of antidepressants are specifically mentioned, following on from a study covered by This Site here.

The proposal in The Lancet states [boldings mine]:

It is well known that poverty and social inequity are major determinants of our mental health, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur characterises mental health care not as a crisis of individual conditions, but as a crisis of social obstacles, which hinders individual rights.

It is important, therefore, that the circumstances that have given rise to distress should be formally recorded alongside the distress itself. Psychosocial codes… incorporate descriptive information regarding adverse life experiences and living environments, but are almost never used or reported in clinical practice or academic publications.

These quasi-diagnostic codes document neglect, abandonment, and other maltreatment… homelessness, poverty, discrimination, and negative life events in childhood, including trauma… problems related to family upbringing, and housing and economic problems.

Broadening routine data capture within UK National Health Service records could establish more inclusive, social, systemic, and psychologically comprehensive patterns of difficulties, which could target information regarding established social determinants of mental health problems, such as inequality, poverty, and trauma.

Imagine if it were as serious to fail to document extreme poverty as it would be for a clinician to fail to identify severe depression.

We do not expect that clinicians should resolve such difficulties; it is not the job of mental health professionals to end poverty.

Nevertheless, proper recording of psychosocial… codes in the context of psychiatric diagnoses is imperative because of the close relationship between the two.

The UK government programme of reassessing disability benefits… using the Work Capability Assessment has been associated with an increase in suicides, mental health problems, and prescription of antidepressants.

Transitions into poverty (relevant to codes [on] inadequate housing… lack of adequate food… extreme poverty; and… low income) have been associated with increased odds of children developing socioemotional behavioural difficulties, and individuals who have had an institutional upbringing… are approximately 11 times more likely to experience paranoia compared with those with a less disrupted early history.

As clinicians, we might be better able to serve our clients if we can use such data capture to apply more effective pressure on the political system and drive wider system reform.

Source: A proposal to introduce formal recording of psychosocial adversities associated with mental health using ICD-10 codes – The Lancet Psychiatry


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Are you endangered by the threat of revenge eviction? Then help change the law

141020evictions

A few months ago, Mrs Mike – who is the named tenant of VP Towers – received a communication from our landlord (a housing association).

It was notification that the HA had applied to the Welsh Assembly to set a ‘fair rent’ at about £9 per week more than the then-current level.

Depending on your own circumstances, £9 per week may not seem altogether high but for Mrs Mike, who considers herself to have suffered undue neglect from her landlord (remember the flood last year?), it was the last straw. The notification letter stated that she could appeal against the increase, so she did.

You may be surprised, dear reader, to find that I was reluctant to support her. I feared the possibility of a revenge attack by our landlords, resulting in us ending up on the street.

I was wrong – but the issue took a few months to resolve. At first, the Assembly agreed with the housing association that our rent should be increased and, following representations by Mrs Mike, by more than the HA had originally requested. The landlord promised that it would stick to the original figure but Mrs Mike wasn’t having any of it and took the case to a tribunal, pointing out that our landlord wasn’t comparing our rent with similar houses in the local area (as is necessary) and that calls for repairs were habitually ignored or dismissed by servicers who are based almost 100 miles away.

Now our rent is cheaper – yes, cheaper – than it was before, and it seems our landlord is going to abide by the decision.

But this is a rare case, according to homelessness charity Shelter – and it seems we are safe only because we rent from a social landlord.

Current laws mean it is entirely legal for any private landlord to evict tenants, Shelter says, simply for speaking up about bad conditions going unacknowledged and unrepaired, as Mrs Mike has.

The situation affects no less than nine million UK citizens – and last year, 200,000 of them were thrown out of their homes in what the charity has described as ‘revenge’ evictions.

It seems some landlords don’t like to be embarrassed when their neglect comes out into the public domain.

This means that, according to Shelter, one in 12 private renters have avoided asking for repairs in case they are evicted.

But on November 28 MPs have the chance to end revenge eviction, the charity says.

“They’ll be debating a small change to the law: to stop landlords issuing an eviction notice when the tenant has made a legitimate complaint about conditions.

“For the Bill to pass, enough MPs need to attend the debate and the majority need to vote in favour. You can see more about how the Bill will become law here.

“You can tell your MP to save the date – to attend Parliament on 28 November and vote to end revenge evictions.

“Normally, MPs go back home on a Thursday to do constituency work on a Friday. This time, we need them to stay in Westminster until Friday morning, so they can vote to change the lives of the thousands of renters they represent.”

Shelter has provided a handy system to help you email your MP and ask them to improve the lives of nine million UK citizens. Here it is:

Email your MP and ask them to stay in parliament on Friday 28 November.

In the run-up to a general election, voters will be watching their MPs very carefully. Do they really represent you? November 28 will be a test of their good intentions. If they don’t stay and vote, you’ll know what to do with them next May. But they need to know what you want them to do.

It’s up to you.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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By their own standards, Coalition ministers should be in prison

131125criminality

Everyone should agree that the Tory fuss over former Co-op Bank chief Paul Flowers is an attempt to distract us all from a more serious transgression that they themselves have committed.

Flowers, who is also a former Labour councillor, was arrested last week after being filmed allegedly handing over money to pay for cocaine.

The Conservatives have spent the last few days working very hard to establish a link, in the public consciousness, between the criminal allegations against Flowers, the Co-op Bank’s current financial embarrassment – believed to have been caused because Flowers knew nothing about banking, and the Labour Party, which has benefited from loans and a £50,000 donation to the office of Ed Balls.

This is unwise, considering a current Tory peer, Viscount Matt Ridley, was chairman of Northern Rock at the time it experienced the first run on a British bank in 150 years. He was as well-qualified to chair that bank as Paul Flowers was to chair the Co-op. A writer and journalist, his only claim on the role was that his father was the previous chairman (apparently the chairmanship of Northern Rock was a hereditary position).

Ridley was accepted as a Tory peer after the disaster took place (a fact which, itself, casts light on Conservative claims that they were going to be tough on bankers after the banker-engineered collapse of the western economies that started on his watch). The Conservatives are currently obsessing about what happened between Flowers and the Labour Party before the allegations of criminality were made.

Ridley is listed as having failed in his duty of care, which is not very far away from the kind of responsibility for the Co-op Bank’s collapse that is alleged of Paul Flowers. (Source: BBC Any Questions, November 22, 2013)

In addition, the Co-op Bank is not the Co-operative Party or the Co-operative Movement, and those two organisations – one of which is affiliated with the Labour Party – must not be tarred with the same brush.

The Tories are hoping that the public will accept what they are told, rather than digging a little deeper for the facts.

There’s no real basis for their venom; they ennobled a man who presided over much worse damage to the UK’s financial institutions, and attracting attention to criminal behaviour by members or supporters of political parties would be a huge own-goal.

Therefore this is a distraction. From what?

Cast about a little and we discover that Jeremy Hunt is threatening to create a new criminal offence for doctors, nurses and NHS managers if they are found to have wilfully neglected or mistreated patients – carrying a penalty of up to five years in jail.

The law was recommended in the summer by Professor Don Berwick, a former adviser to Barack Obama, who recommended criminal penalties for “leaders who have acted wilfully, recklessly, or with a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude and whose behaviour causes avoidable death or serious harm”.

Some of you may be delighted by this move, in the wake of the Mid Staffs scandal – even though questions have been raised over the accuracy of the evidence in that case.

But let’s look at another controversial area of government – that of social security benefits for the seriously ill.

It appears the Department for Work and Pensions, under Iain Duncan Smith, is planning to remove financial support for more than half a million people who – by its own standards – are too ill to seek, or hold, employment.

Apparently Smith wants to disband the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants, because they aren’t coming off-benefit fast enough to meet his targets.

The Observer‘s report makes it clear that the arguments are all about money, rather than patient care. Smith is concerned that “only half of WRAG claimants are coming off-benefit within three years, and hundreds of millions of pounds are being tied up in administration of the benefit, including work capability assessments and the appeals process”.

No mention is made of the fact, revealed more than a year ago, that many of those in the WRAG in fact belong in the Support Group for ESA (the group for people recognised to have long-term conditions that are not likely to go away within the year afforded to WRAG members). They have been put in the WRAG because targets set by Smith mean only around one-eighth of claimants are put into the Support Group.

The knock-on effect is that many claimants appeal against DWP decisions. This has not only caused deep embarrassment for Smith and his officials, but added millions of pounds to their outgoings – in benefit payments and tribunal costs.

Not only that, but – and this is the big “but” – it is known that many thousands of ESA claimants have suffered increased health problems as a result of the anxiety and stress placed on them by the oppressive process forced upon them by Iain Duncan Smith.

This means that between January and November 2011, we know 3,500 people in the WRAG died prematurely. This cannot be disputed by the DWP because its claim is that everyone in the WRAG is expected to become well enough to work within a year.

These are not the only ESA claimants to have died during that period; a further 7,100 in the Support Group also lost their lives but are not used in these figures because they had serious conditions which were acknowledged by the government and were getting the maximum benefit allowed by the law.

What about the people who were refused benefit? What about the 70 per cent of claimants who are marked “fit for work” (according to, again, the unacknowledged targets revealed more than a year ago by TV documentary crews)?

We don’t have any figures for them because the DWP does not keep them. But we do know that many of these people have died – some while awaiting appeal, others from destitution because their benefits have been stopped, and more from the added stress and insecurity of seeking work while they were too ill to do it.

Now Iain Duncan Smith (we call him ‘RTU’ or ‘Returned To Unit’, in reference to his failed Army career) wants more than half a million people – who are known to be too ill to work – to be cut off from the benefit that supports them.

Let’s draw a line between this and Jeremy Hunt’s plan to criminalise medical professionals whose wilful, reckless or ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude to patients’ needs causes avoidable death or serious harm.

Clearly, such an attitude to people with serious long-term conditions should be carried over to all government departments, and yet nobody is suggesting that the DWP (and everybody who works for it) should face the same penalties.

Why not?

By its own admission, choices by DWP decision-makers – acting on the orders of Iain Duncan Smith – have led to deaths. We no longer have accurate information on the number of these deaths because Smith himself has blocked their release and branded demands for them to be revealed as “vexatious”. No matter. We know they have led to deaths.

If doctors are to face up to five years in prison for such harm, then government ministers and those carrying out their orders should be subject to the same rules.

By his own government’s standards, Iain Duncan Smith should be in prison serving many thousands of sentences.

Consecutively.

Work Programme providers’ plea is an insult to everyone they have mishandled

The truth about the Work Programme: The BBC's piece of 'managed' news was among the most despicable distortions to have blemished our TV screens.

The truth about the Work Programme: The BBC’s piece of ‘managed’ news was among the most despicable distortions to have blemished our TV screens.

It isn’t very often one can say a news report was shocking – not because of the subject matter, but because of the way it was reported.

That was the situation tonight with the BBC’s item in which Work Programme providers complained that they need more money to “help” the most challenging jobseekers into work.

This group, of course, being benefit claimants in the work-related activity group of Employment and Support Allowance.

This group being the most consistently abused and neglected element of the new underclass created by the Conservative-led Coalition government, demonised and hated by the right-wing press, often attacked in the street (to judge from first-hand accounts), many of whom have been driven to suicide or death caused by their conditions, which have been worsened by the unacceptable (and to most people reading this, inconceivable) amount of stress the DWP, Atos (the private company assessing their fitness for work) and the private Work Programme providers have put them through.

This group who have been sent on so-called “back to work training” with Work Programme providers, consisting of minimal and elementary exercises that are an insult to the intelligence, rather than an aid to employment. Does anyone remember the exercise in which people are asked to draw a pig? Apparently the direction it faces indicates whether you’re the kind of person who faces their challenges head-on, or someone who takes a more circumspect attitude (so, nothing to do with whether you think a side view is more interesting, then).

This group, being cynically exploited by Work Programme provider organisations in a blatant bid to screw money out of the taxpayer, despite having done the bare minimum to “help” people back into work.

This group, consisting mostly – if not entirely – of people who belong in the support group of Employment and Support Allowance but were placed among those who should be able to go back to work within a year because the Atos Work Capability assessors are under orders to place no more than 12 or 13 per cent of everyone they see into the support group. Oh, you don’t believe me? Ask yourself why, when the fraud rate for disability benefits is 0.4 per cent, the percentage of people being told they are lying and are fit for work is 70 per cent, to which a further 17-18 per cent can be added who are deemed likely to be fit for work with this so-called training from the WPPs.

This is why the Work Programme companies can’t get these people into jobs: They are too ill to work.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. This isn’t about the facts. This is about ‘managing’ the news, to present the public with a cosy story to make Work Programme providers look nice and friendly. They’re not failing because of any lack of will on their part (the BBC story tells us); they’re failing because the government isn’t making them rich enough!

Let’s take this BBC story apart. We’ll use the article on the corporation’s website.

First factual claim: “Of those who have been on the scheme for at least a year, a third have begun a job, figures seen by the BBC show.” This may be true. Unfortunately, statistics tend also to show that these jobs do not last long and the individuals in them end up back on the Work Programme within a few weeks or months. The DWP’s own mark of success is a person keeping a job for six months or more. That’s not exactly permanent by anybody’s standards.

Second factual claim: “In the most challenging group – who claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – only 10 per cent have found work”. This may also be true. Readers will recall the fuss over government lies that 900,000 people had signed off ESA rather than take the Work Capability Assessment, that were proven to be the normal “churn” of claimants signing off for perfectly ordinary reasons such as finding a job they could do, even though sick/disabled, or getting better. ESA is not a lifetime benefit!

So with this figure – totalling around 1.7 per cent of the total number of claimants over a 12-month period – it is entirely likely that some will have found a job they can do, or got better, after taking the assessment. The figures for fraud aren’t touched by this possibility, as there is no reason to believe a fraudulent claimant would be put in the WRAG.

In other words, the 90 per cent of WRAG members left on the Work Programme are, most likely, those who belong in the support group, who are unlikely to find lasting employment because (let’s repeat it): They are too ill to work.

Work Programme providers have their own representative organisation called the Employment Related Services Association, or ERSA. This organisation claimed that the Work Programme cannot “fix” the “complex” health and skills requirements of ESA claimants on its own, but needed to tap into “skills and health budgets”. This is fascinating, because the Work Programme is supposed to be specifically designed to meet the needs of its users. We know it doesn’t, because it has been running since 2011 and we have first-hand accounts to the contrary from people who have been on it, but that was the claim.

ERSA figures “suggest around a quarter of ESA jobseekers have been unemployed for at least 11 years”. This seems likely – they belong in the support group, not the WRAG, and are unable to work.

“The DWP says it recognises the ‘particular barriers facing many of the hardest to help’. Hang on! Wasn’t the DWP under heavy fire only weeks ago because work programme providers were ‘parking’ the most difficult claimants – admitting there was no way to get them into jobs? And that, after the Secretary of State, no less, Iain Dunderhead Smith, went on the BBC’s Question Time and railed about people who had been “parked” on benefits for decades at a time, making it clear in no uncertain terms that he was going to get them off benefits, come Hell or high water?

This is the same story, but now the providers have got the begging bowl out. They’re already paid millions (don’t believe the payment-by-results claim) but they want more money.

Have they forgotten the aim is to save the taxpayers’ cash?

I thought George Osborne’s Mansion House speech would be the most infuriating thing I’d hear this evening.

I was wrong.