Prime Minister David Cameron’s talk of Christian values is empty coming from a man whose government is cutting benefits for the disabled and forced people into homelessness by increasing rents for people living in social housing - including hundreds of thousands of disabled people - to 80% of market rates, while capping housing benefit (1) – (9).
While he claims ‘there is no money’ for the disabled or those he makes homelessness or unemployed, he provides taxpayer subsidies to arms companies and won’t tax banks or hedge funds a penny more.
The government is paying BAE billions to build an aircraft carrier which will be left to rust; and billions more for another which will have just 6 aircraft by 2020. The National Audit Office found Cameron’s claim that it would be more expensive to cancel the contract was false (10) – (13).
Department for International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell told parliament that UK foreign aid to India is intended to secure trade deals with India including £6.6bn of British fighter jets (14). There is money for the war in Afghanistan too and for new PFI contracts, which the Treasury Select Committee found cost taxpayers 70% more to repay per pound than funding by taxation or loans (15) – (16).
Cameron protects the City of London financial sector from new taxes and regulations (17). This includes stock market traders and hedge fund and bank managers who caused the financial crisis, on an average income of £100,000 per year including bonuses, who got a 12% pay increase in 6 months (18) – (19). At the same time he’s making hundreds of thousands of teachers, nurses, police and others unemployed (20).
His government cracks down hard on benefit fraud, which amounts to just £1.6 billion each year out of over £187 billion, with fraudulent claims made by just 0.6% of benefit claimants, often for very small amounts (The inaccurate £6 billion figure the government sometimes claims for benefit fraud actually includes mistakes made – many of them by Department of Work and Pensions staff, not claimants.) (23) – (24).
Meanwhile each year between £6.9 billion and £12.7 billion of benefits that people are entitled to go unpaid either because they are unclaimed or because staff wrongly or mistakenly refuse them to people entitled to them (25).
So at least 4 times as much money isn’t paid out in benefits to people entitled to them as is taken by fraud.
The UK National Fraud Authority’s reports show that the vast majority of fraud each year in the UK is tax fraud (around £15 billion a year) and private sector company and individual criminal fraud most of the rest (around £16 billion a year) (see page 7 of their annual report for 2011). So benefit fraud is peanuts by comparison (26).
At the same time Cameron allows tax havens in the Channel Islands and Belize to remain and lets the Inland revenue do sweetheart deals with big companies to get off with billions in taxes each year (27).
While it’s estimated at least 3,000 people will die of cold related illnesses this year in the UK due to being unable to afford to heat their homes ; and with the proportion of households in fuel poverty having risen from a fifth to a quarter under the Coalition, Cameron’s government allows the big energy companies off with what a study by Manchester University found to be profiteering – raising their prices immediately by 80% of cost increases when their costs go up, but when costs fall cutting prices to consumers by only 50% of the fall in the wholesale costs of gas, coal and oil generated electricity (28) – (30).
As a result the gap between energy companies’ costs per unit of electricity or gas and their prices in the UK rose from £1.93 in 2004 to £4 in 2010. It’s since fallen due to media coverage – but is still much higher than in 2004 at £2.73 (31).
Yet no hint of capping energy profiteering coming from Cameron’s government.
In Cameron’s version of the Bible does Jesus invite the money-changers into the temple to discuss how they can work together to ring more money out of the poorest?
(1) = guardian.co.uk 16 Dec 2011 ‘Cameron calls for return to Christian values as King James Bible turns 400’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/16/cameron-king-james-bible-anniversary
(2) = Guardian.co.uk 21 Oct 2011 ‘Disability groups fear further benefit cuts after miscalculation’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/oct/21/disability-groups-further-benefit-cuts
(3) = BBC 08 Jul 2011 ‘Affordable rent housing plans 'to hit London families'’,http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-14073437 ; ‘Families will struggle to afford multi-bedroom homes in London if government proposals for a new "affordable rent" tariff are introduced, a report by the London Assembly has said. Social housing tenants would be charged 80% of the market rent under the plans.But this is generally higher than the current level and may make payments tricky for families, the assembly's planning and housing committee said. And the proposed cap on benefits could make things even worse, it added. "In this example, new clients could therefore be facing rents that are higher by nearly 100% for a one-bedroom flat and over 300% for a four-bedroom property." This week the government said the changes to housing benefits were about "fairness" and were needed to reduce a bill "which has spiralled to £21bn a year under Labour". But Labour criticised the coalition after it emerged a senior civil servant had warned 20,000 people could be left homeless by the cap on benefits.’
(4) = Observer 21 Aug 2011 ‘Families 'will be priced out of social housing by plans for higher rents' - Proposed rent rises will be unaffordable across much of urban England, not just London, study warns’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/aug/21/families-priced-out-social-housing
(5) = BBC News 11 Mar 2011 ‘Housing benefit cut to hit 450,000 disabled people’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12714313 , ‘An assessment from the Department for Work and Pensions shows the change will leave 450,000 disabled people an average of £13 a week worse off.’
(6) = Scottish Government Communities Analytical Services January 2011 ‘Housing Benefit Changes : Scottish Impact Assessment’ (1st draft version),http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=%22shelter%20scotland%22%20rent%2080%25%20market%20rates&source=web&cd=9&ved=0CFsQFjAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.scotland.gov.uk%2FResource%2FDoc%2F1125%2F0110252.doc&ei=a0KzTuzaN8OO8gO6p4jxBA&usg=AFQjCNGZf0X0ZRayjdogzPZqTzkV8I7JXA&cad=rja
(7) = Shelter (England) 12 Oct 2011 ‘Rent rises hit home’, http://england.shelter.org.uk/news/october_2011/rental_market_in_crisis
(8) = Shelter Scotland 21 Sep 2011 ‘50% Cut In Affordable Housing Budget As SNP Government’s Manifesto Pledge Turns to Rubble’, http://scotland.shelter.org.uk/media/press_releases/press_release_folder/2011/50_cut_in_affordable_housing_budget_as_snp_governments_manifesto_pledge_turns_to_rubble
(9) = BBC News 27 Oct 2010 ‘No change to housing benefit plan - Cameron’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11633163
(10) = Guardian 07 Jul 2011 ‘National Audit Office challenges £6bn project to build aircraft carriers’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jul/07/nao-report-aircraft-carriers-navy
(11) = guardian.co.uk 11 Jul 2011 ‘David Cameron 'prevented independent watchdog seeing aircraft carrier papers'’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jul/11/david-cameron-aircraft-carriers
(12) = Channel 4 News 07 Jul 2011 ‘Guardian 07 Jul 2011 ‘Full fact check : the real cost of cancelling aircraft carriers’http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/factcheck-the-real-cost-of-cancelling-aircraft-carriers/7210; ‘In 2007, the Labour government decided to build two 65,000-ton Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers at an estimated cost of £3.65bn….But since then, costs have spiralled dramatically, with the projected outlay now thought to be £6.24bn for just one fully operational carrier, the Queen Elizabeth…..The second ship – the Prince of Wales – will be built, but left in a state of “extended readiness”, meaning that fighter planes won’t be able to launch from or land on its deck…..It gets worse: the NAOnow thinks the eventual bill for the programme “will significantly exceed £10 billion”.’
(13) = Guardian 29 Nov 2011 ‘MPs warn Royal Navy's carriers will be costly, late, and of limited use’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/nov/29/royal-navy-carriers-impaired-use-public-accounts-committee ; government admits one carrier to be mothballed on construction in 2016, one to have no planes on it till 2020, when it will have only 6, raised to 12 in 2023
(14) = Independent 17 Dec 2011 ‘Aid to India part of broad plan to build trade and investment, says minister ’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/aid-to-india-part-of-broad-plan-to-build-trade-and-investment-says-minister-6278373.html , ‘The Government's controversial decision to continue giving money to India, a nation that has more billionaires than the UK and an aid programme of its own, is directly linked to developing trade and investment opportunities, a senior minister admitted yesterday.
In terms of perhaps surprising bluntness, international development minister Andrew Mitchell said the decision to spend £1.2bn over the next five years was part of a broader partnership that also included the hoped-for sale of fighter jets to India…. One potential deal officials are anxiously following is the sale of 126 fighter jets to Delhi. The EuroFighter Typhoon, made by a European consortium including Britain's BAE Systems, is one of two jets that have made the final shortlist in a deal worth an estimated £6.6bn.’
(15) = guardian.co.uk 19 Jul 2011 ‘300 schools to be built with £2bn PFI scheme’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/jul/19/300-schools-built-private-finance-scheme
(16) = BBC News ‘PFI projects 'poor value for money', say MPs’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-14574059 ; ‘The Private Finance Initiative (PFI) used by successive governments to pay for new schools and hospitals is poor value for money, MPs have said. The Treasury select committee said PFI was no more efficient than other forms of borrowing and it was "illusory" that it shielded the taxpayer from risk. Government had become "addicted" to PFI, the committee's Tory chair said…. In a critical report, the cross-party Treasury select committee said the long-term expense of PFI deals - where the private sector shoulders the upfront cost and is typically repaid by the taxpayer over a 30-year period - were now much higher than more conventional forms of borrowing. Due to the financing costs involved, it said paying off a £1bn debt incurred through PFI cost the taxpayer equivalent to a direct government debt of £1.7bn.’
(17) = Guardian 07 Dec 2011 ‘David Cameron threatens veto if EU treaty fails to protect City of London’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/07/cameron-threatens-veto-eu-treaty
(18) = Astbury Marsden Compensation Survey 2011 – Banking Infrastructure London,http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:tN8-iJkGpa8J:www.astburymarsden.com/documents/Astbury%2520Marsden%2520Compensation%2520Survey%25202011_Banking%2520Infrastructure%2520London%2520small.pdf+Astbury+Marsden+report+city+pay&hl=en&gl=uk&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjCp35WxasQC0uKU6hyPufcF3PKQgqywr0k1qNAEGK_4wMSeFBhohPhKrGo7oTiY4RLukF4E51KGYTxH6kmRfhX-1zs80hIKdv6Ckao6ZzZxFrjD6HI5anmt52lZR3QiNTc0ttx&sig=AHIEtbS9vlPCGJzgvi4HFde7s45wAlnw_w ; shows average salary for city of London financial sector is £83,000 with 12% increase in 6 months in 2011
(19) = Guardian 28 Nov 2011 ‘Banks under fresh pressure to curb bonus and dividend payouts’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/nov/28/banks-curb-bonuses-dividends ; ‘According to a survey by headhunters Astbury Marsden published on Monday, City professionals expect an average bonus of 24% of their basic pay for 2011, indicating a payout of £19,920 on an average salary of £83,000.’ (which brings their average annual income including bonuses to about £103,000)
(20) = guardian.co.uk 29 Nov 2011 ‘Cuts: an extra 300,000 public sector jobs now face the axe’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/patrick-butler-cuts-blog/2011/nov/29/300k-extra-public-sector-jobs-face-axe , ‘The Office for Budgetary Responsibility now reckons 710,000 public service jobs - not 410,000 - will go over the next five years.’
(21) = Office for National Statistics ‘Labour Market Statistics, November 2011’, http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lms/labour-market-statistics/november-2011/index.html ; shows 2.62 million people unemployed in 3rd quarter of 2011
(22) = Labour market statistics: 16 Nov 2011 – Vacancies - http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lms/labour-market-statistics/november-2011/statistical-bulletin.html#tab-Vacancies ; shows 462,000 job vacancies in 3rd quarter of 2011
(23) = Guardian 01 Feb 2011 ‘Benefit fraud: spies in the welfare war’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/feb/01/benefits-fraud-investigators ; ‘The Salvation Army and a number of other charities have written to the prime minister pointing out that the £5bn figure highlighted by the chancellor was "a threefold exaggeration of the true government estimate of benefit fraud". The frequently cited figure is achieved by adding the estimated amount of fraudulent claims (approximately £1.6bn) to the estimated total of claims made as a result of an error either by the claimant or the official handling their claim….There is an artful misrepresentation here; the suggestion is that the benefits bills is out of control because vast quantities of fraud is being committed by benefits claimants – so cutting the bill is just a question of tackling fraud. It is true that the benefits bill has grown rapidly, from £125bn in 1996/7 to £187bn in 2009/10, but this is not the result of increased fraud. The cost is higher because more people are (legitimately) claiming benefits and because an ageing population is making the cost of pensions soar. Less than 1% of people on benefits commit fraud, and those who do, campaigners argue, are often the poorest of the poor, and the sums involved very small.
(24) = Full Fact 01 Nov 2010 ‘Calls grow for George Osborne to correct the record’,http://fullfact.org/blog/calls_grow_for_george_osborne_to_correct_the_record-2364
(25) = Hansard House of Commons Written Answers 16 March 2011column 401w ‘Social Security Benefits’ http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110316/text/110316w0004.htm#1103171000102 ; ‘Dr Whiteford: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of monetary value of unclaimed benefits in the latest period for which figures are available; and how much was unclaimed for each benefit and allowance type. .Chris Grayling: For the six income-related benefits for which estimates are available there was between £6,930 million and £12,700 million left unclaimed in 2008-09’
(26) = National Fraud Authority Jan 2011 ‘Annual fraud indicator’,http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/agencies-public-bodies/nfa/annual-fraud-indicator/annual-fraud-indicator-2011?view=Binary
(27) = Guardian 20 Dec 2011 ‘HMRC hid 'sweetheart' tax deals for big business, MPs say’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/dec/20/inland-revenue-sweetheart-tax-deals
(28) = guardian.co.uk 19 Oct 2011 ‘Fuel poverty 'will claim 2,700 victims this winter'’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2011/oct/19/fuel-poverty-2700-victims-winter ; figure is if only 10% of 27,000 cold related excess deaths in winter are due to fuel poverty ; figure is for England and Wales only so including Scotland , with Scotland having a population of 5.2 million and England and Wales 63 million, there will be 222 cold related deaths in Scotland this winter, which, added to the 2,700 in England and Wales comes to 2922 – roughly 3,000)
(29) = guardian.co.uk 01 Dec 2011 ‘Fuel poverty affects a quarter of UK's households as bills soar and pay freezes’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/dec/01/fuel-poverty-affects-quarter-households
(30) = guardian.co.uk 02 Dec 2011 ‘Big six energy firms face fresh accusations of profiteering’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/dec/02/energy-firms-accusations-profiteering-electricity
(31) = See (30) above