‘Mini umbrella’ tax abuse

Thousands of workers have been recruited by firms which have been found to be using mini umbrella companies (MUCs) to avoid tax. MUCs qualify for Employment Allowance – which allows employers with a small number of employees to reduce their annual national insurance costs by up to £4,000.

They are also able to benefit from the flat-rate VAT scheme, also intended to help small businesses. This ‘slicing and dicing’ to avoid taxes is a fraud that has been identified by HMRC and involves organised criminals.

According to a recent BBC radio ‘File on 4’ programme, 48,000 MUCs have been set up since 2015. This is tax abuse on a gigantic scale. Complex supply chains involving MUCs have been used by out-sourcing companies to recruit workers to roles in teaching, Covid testers, and test-and-trace workers, for example.

This fraudulent activity has the whiff of the Greensill supply-chain scandal, both involving financial manipulation to enrich unscrupulous bosses and stealing from the public purse.

Tory cuts to civil service tax officer budgets have made the job of tracing these tax-avoiding companies even harder. But this fraud has likely cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions in lost tax revenue a year.

Thea Everett, South East London Socialist Party

Capitalism kills

The link between poverty and child deaths is as glaringly obvious as Boris’s brand-new John Lewis wallpaper.

According to an NHS England-funded report, about 700 child deaths could be avoided each year in England by reducing rates of social deprivation.

I see this link every day in the eyes of a tired child who hasn’t had a good night’s sleep because of overcrowding in their home or having to share a bed with mum or dad because they are in a single living accommodation.

I see children who don’t spend enough time with even one parent because of double shifts. Children are exposed to the daily struggles of debt-riddled parents and the effects of zero-hour contracts.

There isn’t any certainty with this government which is happy to swipe away school meals during the holidays like Thatcher did with our milk in the 80s.

Children in deprived areas don’t have access to the same cultural experiences as privileged children, and learn early on that life for them is about struggle and survival. They see too much, too young, and some pay for it with their lives, having never stepped foot in a museum or a walk at the seaside.

Like their parents they are born into poverty and a cycle of debt and despair, with a growing lack of services to help lift them out.

Rachel Lyon, education worker, Waltham Forest

Planning bill will not solve housing crisis

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The demand for housing is ever-present in Southwark in south east London where I live. An estimated 7,000 plus are on the housing list while, according to the latest available figures, ‘affordable’ housing has slumped to a three-year low of 21%.

This fails to meet the meagre 35% set out in the council’s own policy. Shockingly, research has shown that as many as one in 24 homes lie unoccupied in the borough.

The proposed changes in the Queen’s Speech to move to a zonal housing development system, under the guise of ‘removing red tape’ from the planning process, will do nothing to improve this situation.

Described as a ‘radical overhaul’ of the planning system, power will be further removed from local councils to grant planning permission according to the needs of their constituents.

The Tories also failed to set out any plans for a social housing bill. Working-class people who have been waiting for the basic right of safe and secure housing for as long as two decades may never be housed.

The term ‘affordable housing’ is now splashed across council documents as a way of making it appear as though genuinely affordable and council-run housing is being built. In fact, housing marked ‘affordable’ can cost tenants 80% of market rents.

Only the Socialist Party’s demand of mass council house building programme will begin to resolve the problem of homelessness and insecure housing in the capital and across the UK.

Ellen Kenyon Peers, South East London Socialist Party

No to antisemitic attacks

The antisemitic attacks on Jewish people in North London on Saturday 15 May were disgraceful. These need to be condemned by all sections of the working class.

Jewish people in London are not responsible for the atrocities committed by the Israeli state. Many, myself included, took part in the huge protest in Hyde Park.

Capitalism threatens to plunge us into intercommunal civil war. It is socialism or barbarism. We need a party of the working class which raises the socialist alternative.

Amnon Cohen, North London Socialist Party