David Cameron and George Osborne are being paid tens of thousands of pounds each to make speeches for leading financial institutions at the World Economic Forum.
The former Prime Minister and Chancellor, who this time last year were leading figures at the forum, will this year only attend the fringes of the event held in Davos, including a number of parties and private dinners.
Mr Cameron is to give a speech at a dinner held by accounting firm PwC, while Mr Osborne will appear at an HSBC event for 20 clients.
The fees charged by them are understood to be “in the high five figures”, plus travel and accommodation expenses.
This Blog, and others like it, have been warning you about the Tory plan to privatise the NHS – for years. This infographic is from an article published in June 2015.
Are you looking forward to paying a fortune for health insurance that probably won’t pay out if you need it?
If not, then you’d better do something drastic, and quickly: The plan to privatise the NHS in England is moving steadily towards fruition.
No, you cannot rely on anybody else saving your National Health Service. You need to get up off your posterior and make a point to your MP. If that person is a Tory, they’ll be fully in support of privatisation and may even have shares in private health, so you’ll need to threaten their own livelihood.
Tell them they could lose their Parliamentary seat over this.
Yes, there is evidence that the “desperate measures” mentioned in today’s (October 31) news reports have been planned for six years, aren’t desperate at all, but are part of a deliberate strategy to deprive you of the best health system in the world and provide a nice little earner for those who have invested heavily in private health (these Tory MPs again).
Which would you rather have – a vibrant, fully-funded National Health Service, or private healthcare that might not provide what you need, where you live, and when you need it.
Mark my words: You will become ill at some point in your life. You will need medical help.
And if the Conservative Party is allowed to kill the NHS, you won’t be able to afford it.
Monday’s newspapers … carry news of ‘desperate measures’ to be implemented by the government that will result in reductions in hospital bed numbers in almost half of NHS authorities and the closure of or downgrading of Accident & Emergency (A&E) facilities in a third.
The ‘desperate measures’ quote is deliberately disingenuous, as is the statement that they are to ‘tackle the greatest financial crisis in the history of the NHS’.
As if this is just something that has happened and that requires hitherto-unthinkable steps to ‘tackle’. That’s what you’re meant to think. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The government wants you to believe that the crisis in the NHS is something inevitable that just happened. But proof exists that this manufactured crisis has been in preparation since just after the Tories came to power (and probably long before then).
Defund, cause to fail, privatise. Anything but a crisis that just happened and is leading to ‘desperate measures’.
On the contrary – a political, venal, long-planned choice.
As in so many areas, Jeremy Corbyn has always made plain that he intends to reverse the Tories’ NHS cuts and privatisation. Wonder why the press, broadcast media and right-wing politicians are so desperate to paint him as ‘unelectable’…
Awareness is vital to raising resistance to this planned destruction of our greatest national treasure, so please share this evidence.
With people like this in charge of banks – and then going on to important roles in Conservative-led governments, can either the banks or the government be trusted to do what’s right for UK citizens?
Banks and other financial organisations want the Conservative government to slash the cost of complying with new regulations, according to the Confederation of British Industry. Doesn’t your heart just bleed for them?
Thse are the organisations that sucked the UK into the global financial crisis and allowed the Conservatives to form a government after the 2010 election (they didn’t win it) with a false claim that Labour overspent.
Now they want the regulations that prevent them from causing another crisis to be eased.
Considering the banks’ record, it would be madness to do so. Let’s see how long it takes the Tories to comply.
According to The Guardian, “As the City recovers from the financial crisis, companies are lobbying for an end to criticism of the banking industry and an easing of rules designed to prevent another crisis.
“They argue the sector is a big employer and that the City’s position as a financial centre is important for the UK’s economy.”
Finance is indeed a big employer, here in the UK – but only because Conservative-led governments since 2010 have utterly failed to build up any other industry while continuing to pander to the banks.
Meanwhile, the taxpayer has been supporting banks heavily, with 4.21 per cent of government spending – that’s £41 billion per year – being supplied to these very profitable institutions for no very good reason.
And they’re complaining about the cost of regulations!
It gets better. The regulations against which they are complaining include:
The ring-fence required by 2019 to separate retail and investment banking, so that bad investments cannot affect the safety of depositors’ money.
The introduction of criminal liability for senior executives whose reckless behaviour causes their company to fail.
That’s right – bank bosses are angry that the government is actually trying to stop them from penalising ordinary account holders for their gambling losses, and upset that they might have to pay a debt to society if their decisions harm the viability of their firms.
Clearly these bankers have not learned their lesson and want to inflict further debt upon the taxpayer while making off like the bandits they are.
According to The Guardian, “HSBC has taken the lead for the banks by threatening to leave the UK if it decides the cost of remaining is too great. Britain’s biggest bank listed ringfencing and the [bank] levy, which HSBC says affects it disproportionately, as important considerations.”
It is important to note that the survey was compiled with accounting firm PwC, which has been singled out by HM Revenue and Customs as having created hugely lucrative schemes to help companies and the hugely wealthy to avoid paying their taxes.
Shouldn’t the government’s response be: “F*** off, then – but pay your back taxes first”?
The last thing the government should do is give in to these demands, and taxpayers across the country should write in to George Osborne, warning him against any such move.
There is no reason to trust the banks with any more responsibility than the bare minimum. They simply haven’t earned our trust back yet.
If the banks want more freedom, they should be told to bloody well earn it.
How much more corruption must the British taxpayer underwrite?
The latest private firm to face allegations that it took huge amounts of public money and used it corruptly is Capita.
That’s right – the outsourcing giant whose government contracts include taking over the Work Capability Assessment from discredited Atos in some parts of the UK, is facing an investigation into allegations that it used a major government contract to short-change small companies, resulting in some going out of business.
Capita took a minimum 20 per cent cut of the value of all contracts to administer a £250 million civil service training scheme, in a project hailed as a model of how to open up the public sector to small businesses and provide better value to the taxpayer.
But 12 companies involved in the scheme have now teamed up to demand that the Cabinet Office and the National Audit Office launch an investigation into Capita.
If it is found guilty, the company will join a roll-call of shame that includes PricewaterhouseCoopers (helping clients avoid tax while advising the Treasury on its policy to tackle tax avoidance), G4S (failure to provide security for London 2012, criminal tagging fraud), Serco (criminal tagging fraud) and A4e, if anybody can remember that far back.
To its shame, it seems the Coalition Government is still employing all of these companies.
Lucy Powell MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, said allegations against Capita included claims that firms had gone out of business due to late payments and government departments had been charged more for services than they were under previous arrangements.
“David Cameron promised the Government would pay small business suppliers within five days, yet his failure to act continues to damage our economy,” she said.
“Labour will shine a light on government outsourcing by ensuring firms delivering Government contracts comply with freedom of information requests.
“We will also back small businesses struggling under the Tories by cutting and then freezing business rates.
“And we have put forward a clear plan to tackle the scandal of late payment, ensuring late payers automatically pay interest to their suppliers, and outlawing bad payment practices such as firms being asked to pay for the right to be a supplier.”
That all seems good – and bolsters Labour’s claim to be good for business – but…
In order to make good on its FoI promise, Labour will have to strengthen the law to prevent contractor firms ducking requests in the same way that – for example – the Department for Work and Pensions is currently ducking demands to reveal the number of benefit claimants who have died since November 2011 – the DWP says it already has plans to publish the information, but on an unspecified date that keeps getting pushed further and further into the future.
Any business rate freeze must take notice of local conditions to ensure that no part of the UK is disadvantaged. At the moment there’s a postcode lottery, with businesses based in the most lucrative areas gaining an instant advantage. A blanket freeze would maintain that advantage, rather than levelling the field.
Also late payment controls must be robust enough to prevent firms from finding loopholes in order to delay.
In other words, while the broad strokes are good, the devil’s in the detail.
Hervé Falciani, the HSBC whistleblower – currently on the run from the Swiss authorities.
We owe a great debt to the whistleblowers – people who alert us to the misdeeds of the major corporations and public organisations whose decisions affect our everday lives.
Acting entirely altruistically – with no thought for personal gain – these people warn us about the cheats who squat at the top of the economic food chain, doing everything they can to screw the system.
The whistleblowers deserve congratulation and promotion, while the cheats should be removed from their positions, prosecuted, and ordered to pay substantial sums of money as penalty for their actions.
And what do we do? The exact opposite. We prosecute the whistleblowers and elevate the cheats.
Look at Hervé Falciani, the former HSBC systems engineer who revealed that the bank was helping clients avoid paying tax. According to Tax Research UK, he has been on the run from Swiss authorities because he broke Swiss bank secrecy laws to reveal the information, and is living under protection.
Antoine Deltour, who blew the whistle PricewaterhouseCoopers’ lucrative tax avoidance sideline, is now being prosecuted in Luxembourg at the behest of that firm.
Meanwhile, Stephen Green, who chaired HSBC at the time of its offences, was ennobled and made a Conservative minister, while PwC continues to advice the Tory government on its policies to tackle – yes – tax avoidance.
It’s a backwards culture that can only benefit the criminals, and it’s time for legislation to reverse the situation.
Is any political party brave enough to do the honourable thing?
Margaret Hodge: A principled stand against corruption of politics by corporate influence.
This is something that broke while Yr Obdt Srvt was still recovering from a recent illness, but is still worth covering because Labour really needs to understand the danger of association.
Margaret Hodge, Labour’s chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, broke ranks to warn the Shadow Cabinet against accepting – shall we call it – “help” from accounting firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers on Friday. She said it was “inappropriate” and she was right to do so.
It’s the political equivalent of accepting “help” from the Mafia – you end up in their pocket, owing them favours.
According to the BBC, Labour MPs including Ed Balls (Shadow Chancellor) and Chukka Umunna (Shadow Business Secretary), along with Rachel Reeves (Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary) have received more than £540,000 in research assistance from the firm in the past 18 months alone.
PwC is one of the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms – the others are Ernst & Young, KPMG and Deloitte – who also advise the Conservative-run Treasury on tax policy. It should not be beyond anybody’s wit to see there’s a clear conflict of interest if the firm is advising both Labour and the Tories on tax policy.
Labour’s official line is that “PwC have provided long standing support to all three major political parties on a non-party basis, as happened for the Conservatives and Lib Dems before the last election. Given the complexity of government and that opposition parties do not have significant access to civil servants, the support provided by organisations such as these helps ensure that there is better scrutiny of government policy.”
PwC said its staff provided “limited and fully disclosed technical support to the main political parties” but added: “We do not develop policy on their behalf.” Staff on secondment might make “observations on the improvement of legislation or proposed legislation”, the firm added in a statement.
Isn’t this exactly the problem? Staff make “observations”, and before we know it, all our political parties are carrying out PwC policy instead of their own.
If Labour was serious about getting the advice it needed, then it would be employing advisers who have nothing to do with any of the other political parties. That’s the way it has to be. Anything else courts betrayal of the public.
Then there would be no opportunity for these firms to create embarrassment when their activities “promoting tax avoidance” on an industrial scale were revealed by the Public Accounts Committee
PwC said it disagreed with the Public Accounts Committee report (it would, wouldn’t it?) and denied claims by Mrs Hodge that the firm had misled her committee when its executives gave evidence in January 2013. Who do you believe?
Mrs Hodge herself told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One: “You have to be very, very careful when you’re in opposition whom you take money from”.
This is why Vox Political supports the removal of all private company advisors from government. The private sector has no place in decisions about public services.
Today Vox Political pointed out that Labour’s Rachel Reeves has hired an advisor from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a foreign-owned company that is already advising the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition government, and actually writing laws on tax while helping companies and the very rich to avoid paying it.
It seems clear that she is, as we put it, sleeping with the enemy and it seems likely that this relationship would continue if Labour were to form a government next year – aiding PwC in its aim of being in control, no matter which political party is supported by the people.
Do British people want to live in a corporatocracy like that?
It seems that, if Rachel Reeves has her way, your vote really will count for nothing (who’d have thought she’d be an agent of Lynton Crosby’s ‘They’re all the same’ agenda?) and the corporate bosses will run the country for their own gain and to our detriment.
Alternatively, is it time she received her marching orders and was shipped off to the backbenches, along with her corporate adviser?
Is it time we told Labour that we don’t want to elect another party of corporate lapdogs?
Should we tell Ed Miliband we want him to make his own decisions, untainted by the interests of big businesses that have no intention of helping the poor?
—Putting her foot in it again: Rachel Reeves has a history of stupid decisions. Now she has employed one of the UK’s leading tax avoidance advisors to help her, when we need to END tax avoidance in order to improve the benefits bill.
This is very disturbing, from the new Private Eye (1379):
“Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, is the latest Opposition member to accept help from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
“The management consultant is supplying an analyst to support Reeves from October to January… This suggests that, although Labour has made a lot of noise about the government’s work with unpopular contractors like Atos and A4e, the People’s Party intends to stick with this commercial approach to welfare should it find itself back in power next year.
“PwC is already involved in advising the government on ‘commissioning’ welfare services; and last year Tory employment minister Mark Hoban asked it to help strengthen ‘quality assurance’ in the fitness-to-work tests carried out by Atos [PwC is Hoban’s former employer, implying an inappropriate relationship from the get-go]. This didn’t seem to work, as Atos quit the contract this year after much criticism.
“Reeves’ timing is unfortunate, to say the least. PwC is currently heavily implicated in the latest scandal of big corporations avoiding tax through Luxembourg. Most of the leaked documents show PwC was helping arrange all those tax-free tricks.”
PwC is, along with the rest of the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms – Deloitte, KPMG and Ernst & Young – of course, well-known to Vox Political. Along with the others, it has been invited to actually write government legislation on behalf of the Tories and Liberal Democrats – specifically UK law on tax avoidance – while running many tax avoidance schemes.
In a previous article, Vox Political wrote: “The Department for Work and Pensions has employed many private firms; this is the reason that department is haemorrhaging money. There are the work programme provider firms who, as has been revealed in previous blog entries, provide absolutely no useful training and are less likely to find anyone a job than if they carried on by themselves; there are the IT firms currently working on Universal Credit, about which Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith lied to Parliament when he said he was having to write off £34 million of expenditure – the true figure was later revealed to be closer to £161 million, almost five times as much; there are Atos and Capita, and probably other firms that have been hired to carry out so-called ‘work capability assessments’ of people claiming sickness, incapacity and disability benefits, according to a plan that intentionally ignores factual medical evidence and places emphasis on a bogus, tick-box test designed to find ways to cut off their support; and there is Unum Insurance, the criminal American corporation that designed that test, in order to push British workers into buying its bogus insurance policies that work on exactly the same principle – this is theft on a grand scale.”
This blog has warned that the bosses of companies like Unum, Atos and KPMG (and by extension, PwC) were planning to ensure that they would have government contracts, no matter which political party was in office. In effect, Vox Political warned, they would be unelected kings because whatever you decided at the ballot box, they would be in charge.
In another article, Vox Political pointed out that money paid to these companies does not benefit the British economy but goes abroad to their foreign headquarters or parent companies. PwC is part-American-owned.
In October last year, this blog stated that if Rachel Reeves had promised to be as tough on tax dodgers, in her previous job as shadow chief secretary to the treasury, as she promised to be on welfare in her first speech as shadow work and pensions secretary, Labour might have a lot more credibility.
The article said that ensuring we get the money that is currently going unpaid by tax dodgers – who are facilitated by firms like PwC – would ease the benefit bill as it would take up a smaller proportion of the national tax take. And now she is taking advice from PwC.
Maybe someone at PwC read the article and decided to take preventative action.
It seems clear that if Labour has any involvement with this company – or allows it to continue working behind the scenes on government business – it will not be in the public interest, and in fact is highly likely to harm the public good.
So we must ask:
Rachel Reeves, what the blue blazes do you think you are doing?
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