19th September 2013

http://www.standard.co.uk/panewsfeeds/benefit-cheats-could-get-10-years-8818235.html http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/factcheck-qa-benefit-fraud-perspective/15796 http://www.greenbenchesuk.com/2013/09/79-of-convicted-tax-fraudsters-never.html http://metro.co.uk/2013/09/18/hs2-consultants-for-high-speed-rail-line-on-track-to-pocket-500m-4050494/

Decisive Dave,

My darling, how utterly incredible and delightful for you that your minions keep coming up with new ways of keeping the blame for all of the nation’s problems on the poor. It’s the director of public prosecutions this time, keeping the focus on the scroungers, by raising the level of seriousness and also the penalty, on benefit fraud, so that the crime is now classed alongside offences such as money laundering and banking fraud, and now holds a maximum penalty of ten years. It’s a move that you’ve been quoted as saying you “warmly approve” of. And well you should.

Ten years may seem like a stiff penalty, what with the average sentence for rape and manslaughter being around seven or eight years and 79% of tax evaders escaping jail altogether, but benefit fraud is a serious crime that needs special focus right now. Did you know that £1.9bn is lost to these feckless fraudsters every year? That’s an incredible amount of money. The fact that £3.4bn is lost through administrative errors and anywhere between £32bn and £70bn is lost to tax evasion is all the more reason why we need to save as much money as we possibly can. Still, at least there is some comfort in the fact that around £12.3bn goes completely unclaimed too. All that money could go to far more worthy causes, don’t you think? The new High Speed rail project for instance.

The HS2 could cut the journey time between London and Birmingham by a whole twenty minutes and may only end up costing the taxpayer £80bn. Bargain. I would, however, have a look again at the consultants hired to estimate the cost, as their original estimate was about £32bn. In fact, they’re the same company who overestimated HS2’s benefits by £8bn and underestimated the cost of the Olympics by £7bn. So if you want to replace them, I’m a pretty good estimator myself – I guessed the number of jelly beans in a jar at my kids’ school fete once and won a jar of jelly beans! Still, they work hard and get on, which is why they’re worth every penny of their £500m consultancy fee.

Incidentally, your free school meals initiative cost a whole £100m more than that so it’s good to see your heart and your priorities are still in the right place. Personally, I sleep better at night knowing my taxes are safe in your wonderfully smooth hands.

Katy Anchant

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