Jan 2008 16

Back in 2000, when ‘investment’ in the NHS seemed to know no limits, the government felt confident enough to promise all citizens access to an NHS dentist within just two years. A report brought out today though, by the charity Citizens Advice, reveals the impressive extent to which the government has failed to deliver on this promise.

The report found that ‘lack of access is the most common reason cited by people in England and Wales for not seeing an NHS dentist since April 2006, along with not needing treatment. It was mentioned by 31% of respondents in England and Wales who have not been to an NHS dentist since April 2006. This is the equivalent of approximately 7.4 million people who have not been to an NHS dentist since April 2006 because of difficulties in finding one. Of these, the equivalent of approximately 4.7 million have sought private treatment instead and the equivalent of approximately 2.7 million have gone without treatment altogether.

Publicly funded dentistry under this government has been woefully neglected. Year on year, the numbers
who use an NHS dentist fall – 266,000 fewer in 2006 than in 2005. At the same time, and no doubt in part responsible for the fall in patients, the cost of seeing an NHS dentist has risen substantially. Under the 2006 dentistry contract drawn up by the government, some dentists were forced to put up prices for a regular check-up from £6 to £16. Many see that contract as the straw that broke the camel’s back, encouraging many dentists to move into private practice and pricing publicly funded oral health care beyond the means of those who need it most. As the NHS enters its 60th year, it is a telling state of affairs that one of the planks on which it was built – government funded dentistry – looks set to be one of the first parts of it to slide into obsolescence.

Jan 2008 16

A major role of the TaxPayers’ Alliance is scrutinising the Government and the public sector to make sure taxpayers’ money is spent properly and is not being abused and wasted. We regularly write to Ministers and public officials to enquire about different programmes and activities. One particularly brazen example of the abuse of public money has come to our attention – and we have written today to Sir Gus O’Donell, the Cabinet Secretary, and Sir Leigh Lewis, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Work and Pensions, to complain.

A press release [enclosed in full at the foot of this page] emerged from the Department of Work and Pensions yesterday that promises more grief for beleaguered Work and Pensions Minister Peter Hain, who has already been branded "incompetent" by the Prime Minister. Special Advisers in his department have been caught red-handed breaking the rules on ethics and propriety and abusing their position to use civil service resources for the purposes of partisan political campaigning.

At 10.21am on Tuesday 15th January a Special Adviser in the DWP used their departmental email address to issue a press release entitled "TORIES AIM TO DESTROY FINAL SALARY PENSION SCHEMES", a diatribe accusing the Opposition of setting out to "destroy the best pension schemes in Britain" and telling the electorate:

"if you are in a final salary pension scheme, don’t ever vote Tory or they would destroy it."

Setting aside the unwise commitment of the Government to unsustainable final salary pensions, this is a shocking email.

SpAds are expressly forbidden by the Code of Conduct from using their position for party political campaigning:

6. Special advisers should not use official resources for party political activity. They are employed to serve the objectives of the Government and the Department in which they work. It is this which justifies their being paid from public funds and being able to use public resources, and explains why their participation in party politics is carefully limited. They should act in a way which upholds the political impartiality of civil servants and does not conflict with the Civil Service Code. They should avoid anything which might reasonably lead to the criticism that people paid from public funds are being used for party political purposes.

And if that wasn’t clear enough it is restated later:

10. Special advisers are able to represent Ministers’ views on Government policy to the media with a degree of political commitment that would not be possible for the permanent Civil Service. Briefing on purely party political matters must be handled by the Party machine.

This press release is clearly not "representing Ministers’ views on Government policy" – its topic is a Minister’s view on Conservative policy laid out in a speech by David Cameron. The whole document focuses on attacking the policies of the Opposition, even mentioning the Opposition 10 times in 13 sentences.

If the DWP’s Ministers want to campaign against Tory policies and instruct voters how to vote at the next general election, they have to use Labour Party resources to do it. Taxpayers do not want to pay for political parties’ election campaigning – and yet this press release makes no attempt to hide that it does just that. It is a barefaced abuse of taxpayers’ money to persuade people how to vote in an election based on criticising Opposition policy – not something SpAds, Civil Servants or anyone else on the public payroll should be doing.

DWP PRESS RELEASE

From: Special-Advisers DWP [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: 15 January 2008 10:21
To: MOS-PR DWP
Subject: RE: FOR IMMEDIATE USE: Tories aim to destroy final salary pension schemes
Importance: High

FOR IMMEDIATE USE
TORIES AIM TO DESTROY FINAL SALARY PENSION SCHEMES

Commenting on yesterday’s proposals by David Cameron to close public service final salary pension schemes – not just the scheme for MPs – Pensions Minister Mike O’Brien QC MP said:

"The Conservative Party plans to get rid of public sector

final salary pensions, thereby destroying the best pension schemes in Britain.

"This would send a signal to the employers of hundreds of thousands of workers who remain in final salary pension schemes that the Conservatives don’t care about them and are prepared to reduce their income in retirement.

"This should serve as a warning: if you are in a final salary pension scheme, don’t ever vote Tory or they would destroy it.

"Although the numbers in final salary schemes have declined from 8 million in the 1960s to around 3 million now, many workers in the private sector remain in final salary schemes.

"In the 1980s, the Tories allowed employers pension contribution holidays and there were mis-selling scandals, and these resulted in deficits. Many employers left the schemes to avoid those deficits.

"In the new Pensions Bill, Labour has just introduced deregulatory measures to encourage employers to remain in these gold-standard schemes. Only a few weeks ago, the Tories claimed to welcome these, and wanted us to go further to keep defined benefit schemes.

"Mr Cameron’s announcement that they plan to end final salary schemes for public sector workers sends the wrong signal. It shows they have learnt nothing from the mistakes of the last Tory government.

"The Tories have understood nothing and learnt nothing about pensions."

ENDS

For further information, please call DWP Special Advisers on 020 3267 XXXX

Jan 2008 16

Barnet_14108_006_a“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people”

If only…

TPA Activist Barbara Lockwood contacted me this morning about a council tax story she’d heard on local Norfolk radio. After a little investigation, we found this disgraceful example of tyrannical government:

“Bailiffs are to crack down on at least 500 people who failed to pay council tax and business rates. North Norfolk District Council said bailiffs were prepared to take possession of goods and property unless debtors arranged to pay what they owed. "Those being targeted have had at least four chances to pay," a spokesman said.

"They will have goods or property seized and sold at auction to collect a total of £616,000 unpaid council tax or business rates," he said.”

You can read the rest of the story here.

Compare these figures for a moment: North Norfolk District Council spent £600,000 on its publicity in 2007, an increase of 22% in the last ten years.  Council Tax has gone up by 100% in the last ten years.  And councils still want more. 

North Norfolk District Council is abusing its power to invade YOUR property, to take YOUR possessions all in order to pay off £600,000 of council tax it claims is owed.  It’s first duty is to ensure services are delivered at as little cost to the taxpayer as possible.  It’s response should be to cut spending on publicity and council perks, not sending in bully boys to threaten and frighten pensioners.

So if you are in North Norfolk and are making a stand against the Council, who by this one example of publicity spending are squandering too much of your money, contact me so we can rally TPA supports and activists to join you in protest. It’s time we told government to buck their ideas up and back off!

Jan 2008 16

SmallbluebinHere we are again.  Another week passes us by and we find another local government non-job wasting your money, a job that needn’t exist because it is either done in the voluntary sector or could be done by another government department or body.  The latter is the focus of this week’s non job and here it is from Coventry City Council:

Archivist_small_3Crime Reduction Co-ordinator
£37,543 – £42,332

A specialist on crime and disorder issues, you will support the development of policies and strategies to reduce crime, the fear of crime and anti-social behaviour.

An excellent understanding of statutory requirement and good practice in relation to community safety and experience of managing people and finances will be vital.”

I said this here, and I will say it again:  Bureaucrats sat behind a desk do not cut crime.  You want a crime reduction strategy, then here’s one – put more police on the beat.  A police presence cuts crime, fear of crime and anti-social behaviour.  Simple.

To add insult to injury this bureaucrat will get paid more than a starting police constable and even an experienced police sergeant.  Is it no wonder the police are furious at being denied a pay increase when the government mandate councils to employ these types of officers who can’t have anything near the effect to reduce crime as an on-the-beat policeman can.

So, hopefully you’re riled enough to get campaigning on this.  There’s a selection of ways you can hold Coventry City Council to account on this one.  First you can contact Cllr Tony O’Neill, the Deputy Leader of the Council who also happens to be cabinet member for Value for Money, and ask him whether taxpayers’ are getting value for money from a high paid bureaucrat rather than an on-the-beat policeman.  You can ask Cllr Andy Matchett, Cabinet member for Community Safety, whether a bureaucrat can reduce crime and fear of crime better than a visible police presence.  Finally you can write to the local Coventry newspapers and raise the issue with Coventry’s taxpayers:

The Coventry Telegraph
Corporation Street,
Coventry,
West Midlands,
CV1 1FP,
United Kingdom
Email: [email protected]

The Coventry Observer
4 The Quadrant,
Coventry,
CV1 2EL,
United Kingdom
Email: [email protected]

If you’re successful and get any responses, do email them to me so I can keep track of our campaign activity.  Your action can always spur potential TPA activists to take up the campaign themselves and get involved.  We need your help on this one, folks!

Jan 2008 16

In the first of a series of papers analysing the effectiveness of expenditure on overseas aid, the TaxPayers Alliance has published a paper looking at the effects of British aid spending in the Palestinian territories. Funding Hate Education reveals disturbing evidence showing how British taxpayers’ money has been spent helping to fund hate education and promote violence in the Middle East. The full report can be read here (PDF, 6MB)

Matthew Sinclair, the author of the report and a policy analyst at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“With moves towards a peace settlement at Annapolis and an American Presidential visit to Israel, there is real hope that a peace deal can be reached.  In order for a deal to stick over the long term, however, it is essential that the Palestinian population fully accepts it.  This is why it is particularly concerning that British aid is supporting the radicalisation of the Palestinian population, particularly the children.”

Funding Hate Education shows that part of the £47.5 million of British aid to Palestine is supporting:

  • Textbooks that praise insurgents in Iraq, argue for the execution of apostates and idealise martyrdom.
  • Television broadcasts, many aimed at children, that urge violence against non-Muslims and promote the view that Israel should not exist.

Matthew Sinclair continued:

“The future of the peace process in Israel and Palestine depends at least as much on positive attitudes among young Palestinians as it does on success at the negotiating table.  British taxpayers’ money is supporting the radicalisation of Palestinian youth and hurting our objectives in the region.  This needs to, and can, change.”

David Lidington MP, Shadow Foreign Office Minister, said:

“I was disturbed to read the findings within the Taxpayers’ Alliance report, ‘Funding Hate’. It is imperative that future generations, wherever they are, are taught a message of reconciliation and mutual understanding. I have contacted both the Palestinian representative in London and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency to discuss the issues the Taxpayers Alliance has raised.”

Patrick Mercer OBE MP said:

“It worries me deeply that British taxpayers’ money is being used, quite improperly, for destructive purpose.  Whilst aid needs to be directed to the needy, its abuse for terrorist purposes is grotesque.”

MEP Hannu Takkula, Vice-Chairman Committee on Culture and Education at the European Parliament, said:

“The right to education is one of children’s fundamental rights. I should emphasize that this includes right to a hate-free educational system. Since the European Union is financially supporting the Palestinian administration including the educational system, it has to ensure that the values taught to these kids correspond to the fundamental values of Europe itself. We, MEPs and European citizens, must ask for more accountability on one hand and for less incitement on the other hand.”

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