A credit system that can’t pay peanuts

It’s probably not often that someone in the field of
social care fails to notice £3.3m disappearing from his or her
personal bank account. In the trial of Joyti De-Laurey, who helped
herself to £4m from her banker boss, Scott Mead of City
bankers Goldman Sachs overlooked the missing sum for a long period
of time because he considered it “pocket money”.

In the same week as the immoral amounts “earned” in the City
were being exposed in court, professor David Southall, a
paediatrician, was trying, without success, to raise £30,000
for maternity facilities desperately needed in Ethiopia. If
£3m is considered pocket money – what’s £30,000
deemed? The equivalent to the cost of the olive in Mr Mead’s
dry martini?

It was ever thus. But if we have an economy that can sustain the
payment of vast amounts for the “talent” of shifting money around –
surely, we can dredge up sufficient ability to ensure that we also
have tax credits that work for those who have to count every

The influential public accounts committee of the House of
Commons has lambasted the Inland Revenue, saying its handling of
the introduction of the child tax and working tax credit schemes
has been, “nothing short of disastrous”. Delays and miscalculations
have resulted in under and overpayments. The committee says the
Inland Revenue must now explain how recovering overpayments will
affect other benefits. Justice says individuals should be allowed
to keep what has already been allocated.

The public accounts committee has also questioned why the
government has failed to advertise the fact that families could
claim compensation – only 1,600 of the 800,000 claimants who
experienced delays have received any. That is tantamount to

If Joyti De Laurey is clobbered for taking from those who have
too much to notice, then the government should certainly make

recompense for withholding from those who have nothing.
Compensation should be automatic.

As much of an outrage is the perennial problem of low take up.
The pensions credit, for instance, introduced in October has
reached only 2.9 million of the 4.9 million people who are

Employees at the Revenue mostly have no idea what it means to
rake for coins at the bottom of a pocket to get by. Perhaps
it’s not MPs who should be dispatched to spend a week living
with a family on a low income – its heads of departments in the
civil service.

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