The Parliamentary Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, has released a report calling Gordon Brown’s system of tax credits "unfair" to some of Britain’s poorest families.
Ms Abraham also accused HMRC staff of failing to apply overpayment guidelines properly, which had led to some "unduly harsh decisions" that had "caused extreme worry and anxiety to many low income families … The outcomes of some of those decisions seemed to fly in the face of the aims of the tax credit policy." As a result of this mess, the report found that 363,000 families are being pushed into debt.
This is really not what tax credits should be about.
The Telegraph reports that the failed computer system for recruiting junior doctors to training posts is to be scrapped. An inquiry headed by Sir John Tooke has found that those running the system failed in two key ways:
Once again civil servants and politicians prove unable to manage a major project. Management inexperience is combined with the slow-moving culture of the civil service and results in a system which doesn’t respond promptly even when given ample warning that a project faces big risks.
Cash-strapped one-star rated Stoke-On-Trent Council are once again ploughing taxpayers’ money in the wrong direction, and instead of improving on their poorly ranking children’s services, or attempting to raise themselves from amongst the country’s very worst ‘value for money’ councils they are looking to re-brand at the expense of their local residents.
The perfectly adequate Stoke-On-Trent Council logo will be scrapped and replaced by one representing the ‘strength, pride and unity of the city’ picked from designs submitted by competition applicants from local schools and colleges.
In The Sentinel today readers are posed the question ‘Could you improve council’s image?’ and presumably those familiar with Stoke’s recent performance will recognise that any improvement to the council’s image will take something more substantial than an attractive new graphic for letterheads.
We are told that the new trendy logo will be emblazoned on correspondence, vehicles and billboards which seems to signal that the council will be on an expensive promotional drive once the winner is chosen, and of course anything marked with the old logo will have to be destroyed and replaced or re-branded.
If Stoke-On-Trent Council’s recent performance ratings are accurate then advertising with a ‘dynamic and modern’ logo will be about as convincing as sticking a Ferrari badge on a Lada. This council has simply got it back to front, and should realise that the best way to attract people to the city and to elevate the reputation of the council is to restrain from spending money on flashy new emblems, and instead focus on the task-in-hand of making Stoke a clean city with quality services and low-taxes. Surely nothing is more attractive and dynamic than that?
Research by the price comparison website uSwitch.com found that disposable income – the money left over after taxes, mortgage/rent payments and household bills – has fallen to just 32.6 per cent of gross income, compared with 34.5 per cent in 1997.
The biggest increases in household costs, apart from house prices, were income tax, national insurance and council tax. It cannot be clearer – higher taxes mean lower disposable income. It’s time for politicians of all parties to realise that the best way to boost families’ spending power is to cut the overall burden of tax.
Two polls over the weekend showed that the Conservative plans to raise the inheritance tax threshold to £1 million are popular with voters:
And here’s one reason why. An analysis by the Financial Times today shows that at least a quarter, and possibly as many as two in five, of families in marginal seats are theoretically liable to pay inheritance tax. So much for Ed Balls’ argument that only 7 per cent of estates pay the levy.
It’s also reassuring to hear that Gordon Brown is also planning to look again at inheritance tax, and could raise the threshold and/or reduce the rate. A tax-cutting competition between politicians is exactly what taxpayers need. We hope it will lead to a cut in the overall burden of tax, bringing genuine relief to hard-pressed families and businesses.