Nov 2007 12

Eye Last week we blogged on how the EU has not signed off its own accounts for well over a decade and had sacked former accountant Marta Andreasen for saying the EU was rife with “slush funds and fraud”.

On urging our activists to ask their MEP’s why the EU hadn’t signed off their accounts and what they were going to do about it, TPA activist Graeme Pirie got this reply:

“Thank you for your e-mail regarding the EU accounts, to which I also reply on behalf of my two West Midlands Conservative MEP colleagues Philip Bradbourn and Malcolm Harbour.

There are two main problems with the accounts. One is that 80% of the expenditure is actually the responsibility of Member States, both to implement and then report back, and a number of countries are either late and/or inaccurate in their returns – knowing that it is always the Commission that will get the blame.

Another is that there is too much money sloshing around in too many separate budgets in the first place: Conservatives believe that the EU should do less and do it better.

Meanwhile, it is curious that while our own UK Audit Office has not signed off the UK Works and Pensions budget for any single year since Labour came to power, this never seems to hit any headlines. It is however a symptom of exactly the same problem as the EU: too much money in too many pots.

A change of UK Government could help address all these issues

Every good wish

Philip Bushill-Matthews MEP
Conservative – West Midlands Region”

The reply raises some interesting points:  Why hasn’t the DWP budget been signed off by the UK Audit Office for the last ten years?

It’s time we asked them!  Email me and I will send you our Freedom of Information template letter.  Then simply fill in the blanks with your request and ask the DWP when their departmental budget was last signed off by the UK Audit Office.  If it appears Mr. Bushill-Matthews is right and they haven’t been cleared by the Audit Office in the last decade, we can then ask the DWP why they haven’t signed off the accounts for almost as long as the EU. Hopefully then we can expose the flaws in this government’s own accounting as well as keeping up the pressure on the EU

Contact: Charles Cushing
Department for Work and Pensions
Adjudication and Constitutional Issues Policy Division
Freedom of Information and Data Protection
2nd Floor, The Adelphi
1 – 11 John Adam Street
Tel: 020 7962 8581
Fax: 020 7962 8725
e-mail: [email protected]

Nov 2007 12

The helicopter force of Apache gunships and Chinook transports that the British Army relies upon for support and mobility is apparently falling to pieces.  Half of the Apache gunships were grounded over summer and one third of the Chinooks withdrawn from service as not "fit for purpose".

These can join the long list of failures to properly equip the armed forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Nimrods that crash killing their crew, Land Rovers that do not offer proper protection against roadside bombs and malfunctioning radios.  Defence procurement requires careful management to ensure costs are controlled, quality equipment is delivered and the projects do not take too long.  British defence procurement produces equipment with a decidedly mixed record, that comes in way over budget and is often years late.  Despite all this the civil servant in charge, Sir Peter Spencer, was paid £176,800 last year.  The taxpayer is being made to reward failure.

Nov 2007 12

This year’s Public Sector Rich List includes a list of the top ten ‘Rewards for Failure’. But it’s not enough just to show how failure has been rewarded with taxpayers’ money; British taxpayers also have a right to complain. Even where people have left their job – as Rose Gibb has at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, for example – it’s still important to complain to ensure that failure on such a scale never happens again. Below are the contact details for five government bodies where failure has been rewarded. Do your bit today to hold these bodies to account.

Royal Mail

Chief Executive: Adam Crozier
(No. 1 on Rich List: £1,256,000 per annum)

Managing Director: Ian Griffiths (No. 2: £970,000 p.a.)

To voice your concern about the Royal Mail executives who have overseen strikes, the abolition of the second post and increases in postal charges, send a message on their website or call them on 08457 740 740.

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust

Former Chief Executive: Rose Gibb (No. 288 on Rich List: £150,000 p.a.)

Rose Gibb presided over an outbreak of C. Difficile which the Healthcare Commission say was directly responsible for 90 deaths and contributed to 331 more.  Her management style, described as "autocratic" and "difficult to challenge", was held to be partly responsible for the problems in the Trust by the Commission.  Although Rose Gibbs has left, please make the point that cleanliness in our hospitals should never face such neglect again, and overseeing such disastrous failure should never be rewarded. Please email or write to:

The Chief Executive
Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust
Service Centre
Maidstone Hospital
Hermitage Lane
ME16 9QQ

Environment Agency

Chief Executive: Barbara Young
(No. 87 on Rich List: £220,000 p.a.)

The Agency failed to meet its target of protecting an extra 31,000 homes from flooding and get at least 63 per cent of flood management systems up to the required standard. Floods this summer have cost £3.3 billion to insurers and £14 million in government support has been put in place.

You can complain to the Environment Agency for not reaching its targets to protect tens of thousands of homes from flooding by phone on 08708 506 506 (Mon-Fri 8-6 calls are charged at a local rate), email or post. 

National Customer Contact Centre
Templeborough Office,
Bowridge Close,
Bradmarsh Business Park,
Rotherham, S60 1BY

If you’re not happy with the response you get, then take the EA’s advice and contact the relevant Ombudsman:

The Local Government Ombudsman looks at complaints about flood defence and land drainage.  Contact them by phone on 0845 602 1983 or via the website about the Environment Agency’s failure to meet its target of protecting an extra 31,000 homes from flooding.

Olympic Delivery Authority

Chief Executive: David Higgins (No. 8 on Rich List: £631,000 p.a.)

Senior staff at the ODA have received substantial bonuses despite repeated increases in the budgets for the major venues. The aquatics centre doubled in cost to £150 million and the stadium budget rose from £280 million to £500 million just this October. David Higgins was awarded the largest bonus of £215,000.

You can hold the Olympic Delivery Authority to account for constantly running over budget by calling 0203 2012 000, by email or sending a letter to:

London 2012
One Churchill Place
Canary Wharf
London E14 5LN

Child Support Agency
Chief Executive: Stephen Geraghty (No. 110: £200,000 p.a.)

The Public Accounts Committee revealed that 333,000 cases – 22 per cent of the CSA’s workload – are stuck in the system, more than half of its maintenance assessments are wrong and it costs the agency 70p for every £1 it collects in child maintenance. The CSA is now being replaced by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission.

You can complain to the CSA for failing families by commenting via the CSA website, by phone on 08457 133 133 or to local CSA offices.  You will be notified by call, letter or email within 2 days to acknowledge the receipt of your complaint.  They will let you know of the outcome of your complaint within 15 working days.

Do let us know how you get on by emailing [email protected] so we can publicise them on our website.  Hopefully if we keep up the pressure, such failure in our public services will never happen again.

Nov 2007 12

Another day, another depressing headline.  Yet another international league that Britain is at the bottom of:

"UK children aged 11 to 16 have the lowest international awareness among their age group in 10 countries, a British Council survey says."

The British Council receives £195,352,000 per year in government funding supposedly needed to "build mutually beneficial relationships between people in the UK and other countries and to increase appreciation of the UK’s creative ideas and achievements."

In order to do this they’ve come up with a study that shows us falling behind in our awareness of the world around us:

"British Council chief executive Martin Davidson said: "Our school children cannot afford to fall behind the rest of the world.

"For the UK to compete in a global economy, it is vital that we encourage our young people to have an interest in and engagement with the world around them."

Doees the evidence he has produced at all back that statement up?

Take a quick look at the ranking they’ve produced:

  1. Nigeria 5.15
  2. India 4.86
  3. Brazil 4.53
  4. Saudi Arabia 3.74
  5. Spain 3.29
  6. Germany 3.24
  7. China 2.97
  8. Czech Republic 2.51
  9. USA 2.22
  10. UK 2.19

To compete we apparently need to become more like Nigeria or India and less like the USA, Germany or China.  Let’s compare the British Council’s index to a few key development indicators (click to expand any of these graphs, data is from the Economist World in Figures 2005):


So, more globally aware countries are poorer.


They’re also less, economically, free.  The economic freedom index gives more free economies a lower score.


Finally, they perform worse on the broad measure of the Human Development Index.

How can this be?  Well, one of the questions asked gives a flavour of what the study was really getting at:

"Asked whether they saw themselves as citizens of the world or their own country, most saw themselves as global citizens – except in the UK, USA and the Czech Republic."

A genuine measure of international awareness would include measures like number of foreign holidays or ask questions about foreign customs, faiths and politics.  On that measure the UK might do a lot better.  However, this study isn’t looking for that.  The closest it comes is a question about whether people think they keep themselves aware of current events.  Instead, it is looking for countries whose people do not consider themselves a distinct nation – it is looking for transnationalism.

Successful nations are built on a strong sense of national identity among their people.  Thankfully – and despite the efforts of people like the British Council – we still have that in the UK.  That national identity encourages co-operation, compromise and trust .  Those describing themselves as international citizens probably don’t feel any more attached to the people of the world than we do.  They just don’t feel a special attachment to each other.  In Nigeria inter-ethnic wars show the horrible extremes such a process can reach when an absent national identity is replaced by other group loyalities such as tribe and religion.

Let’s hope that unnaccountable quangocrats like those at the British Council don’t succeed in convincing Britons that patriotism is some kind of sin.

Nov 2007 11
They stopped the Asylum Centre, but we still had to pay

In the news this week-

Non-existent asylum centres cost £35m- "Botched plans to detain thousands of asylum seekers in the depths of the countryside have wasted £35 million of taxpayers’ money. Officials at the Home Office have also been accused of a cover-up after scores of documents about the proposed centre disappeared. Labour ministers originally planned to build four holding centres in rural areas five years ago. But the plans were shelved three years later after opposition from the Refugee Council, the Red Cross and thousands of local residents." (Telegraph 5.11.07)

ID Cards now to cost £5.6bn- "The projected cost of the identity card scheme will be £5.612bn over the next 10 years, the Home Office says… Lib Dem spokesman Nick Clegg said it was a "vast waste of taxpayers’ money" which should be spent on more police. "It is becoming more and more clear that identity cards are going to be a vast waste of taxpayers’ money. The fact that the cost keeps changing shows how loose a grip the government has got on the finances of this ill-judged scheme." (BBC News 8.11.07)

Gary Glitter to cost you £250 grand pa- "Paedophile Gary Glitter is set for a dramatic New Year return to Britain – and it’s going to cost YOU £250,000 a year. The snivelling pervert is desperate to settle down abroad – but more than a dozen countries so far have told him to get lost. So he looks certain to come back to Britain after finishing a prison term in Vietnam for abusing two little girls. And under European laws, the ageing baldie will be given round-the-clock police protection against revenge attacks, a free home and up to 12 minders to guarantee his safety. Shockingly, UK taxpayers will have to foot the bill for Glitter’s freeloading lifestyle, which experts reckon could run to more than £250,000. It is similar to the case of paroled serial rapist Iorworth Hoare, 58, who does not have to pay for his police protection despite winning a £7million fortune on the National Lottery while on day-release from prison in 2004." (People 11.11.07)

£20m pa school fees for diplomats’ kids- "Taxpayers are being billed more than £20million a year to the send children of Foreign Office diplomats to top private boarding schools. Thanks to a little-publicised perk, revered institutions such as Eton and Winchester are among schools available to foreign-posted ambassadors and other embassy staff. Most of the 540 children educated privately are boarders and campaigners question the wisdom of spending an annual average of around £24,000 per child so diplomatic offspring can go private." (Metro- 1.11.07)

£500m wasted on reading scheme- "The millions of pounds spent attempting to raise the standard of English in primary schools has had almost no impact on children’s reading skills, according to a devastating critique on the education system… The Durham University study, led by Peter Tymms, concluded that the National Literacy Strategy, which includes the “literacy hour” daily English lesson, had made a “barely noticeable” impression on reading standards, which had barely improved since the 1950s. The report said: “£500 million was spent on the National Literacy Strategy with almost no impact on reading levels.” The apparently dramatic rise in primary school test results “exaggerated the changes in pupils’ attainment levels and were seriously misleading”. (Times 2.11.07)

Total for week- £6,155,250,000

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