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3 July 2013

Them & Us

Burger blunder

Picture the scene - the day before Chancellor George Osborne announces more devastation to come our way in the Comprehensive Spending Review, he and his advisors desperately try to think of ways to get people to connect more with him. Some bright spark comes up with food - the one commonality between us all. Not just any food - burger and chips, a nice commoner's dinner. So staff are sent out to source the meal, it arrives, a photo is taken and for a modern twist posted on Twitter.

But so unused to this lifestyle is Osborne that it didn't occur to him to check the price of his feast - the burger alone being 6.75 from upmarket chain Byron. Nice try, Gideon.


Thierry Breton, chief executive of benefits assessment firm Atos, has received a 280,000 pay rise. This is presumably a reward for being so successful at driving poor and disabled people off benefits after finding them 'fit for work'. The cruel Atos assessments have brought misery to thousands and helped the Con-Dems drive through their discriminatory cuts. But Breton's company hasn't even been successful at that - 40% of appeals against failing the Atos tests are successful.

Dismal failure

Only one in ten people who've been forced onto the work programme since June 2011 are now in employment. Latest figures show that in half the areas the work programme has been used, people would have been more likely to find a job if they hadn't taken part! And less than 6% of disabled people (some deemed fit for work by Atos) who have taken part now have jobs.

False economy

Iain Duncan Smith's Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has apparently been hardest hit of all government departments by staffing cuts. By 2016 it will have lost 40% of its workforce. And of course it has also had huge cuts in terms of the benefits it administers. We're told all these cuts are necessary because the benefits bill has spiralled out of control and is simply unaffordable now.

But DWP documents show that in fact the cuts could lead to a net increase in the department's spending. For example, they have discovered (you might be forgiven for thinking it would be obvious) that cutting the staff who help people find work might mean fewer people find work and so more have to claim benefits.


If only all expectant parents could rely on such public generosity to help with pre-birth 'nesting' as Prince William and Kate. The public purse is forking out 1 million to refurbish their new family home - Apartment 1A at Kensington Palace. The word apartment is a bit misleading in this situation - 21 rooms spread over four floors, including staff quarters and a drawing room. We've also been told recently that they're planning a "very normal" upbringing for the child. Hmm...

Bad impressions

Nothing gives a bad impression of a place like a not-up-to-scratch loo. This is the situation facing the poor House of Lords and its VIP visitors. The two cubicles and two urinals concerned haven't been refurbished for a while and according to parliamentary documents give a "poor image" and are in an "unacceptable condition for the high profile area they are in". These aren't for use by lowly tourists of course, they're mainly for peers and visitors from foreign parliaments.

It seems only reasonable then that we spend somewhere between 90,000 and 100,000 to sort them out - that's only the price of a small house for most of us!