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WHO ARE THE SCROUNGERS?

29-05-2010

Spongers and scroungers, the feckless and the reckless…yep the usual suspects were rounded up and paraded in full tabloid view this week, as the new Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith unveiled plans for a crackdown on benefits cheats. But who are the real scroungers?

According to the civil servants’ union, the PCS, the government is missing a far bigger target than “Shameless”-style families who chose to get by on benefits rather eking out an existence on the minimum wage.

The CPS, which is running a Fair Tax campaign, claims the Exchequer is losing out on around £120bn revenue each year.

This comprises around £30bn in avoidance – whereby companies take advantage of entirely legal but morally dubious loopholes in the system – and £90bn in unlawful evasion.

By their nature, these figures are guesstimates, but they dwarf this week’s announcement of £6bn spending cuts, suggesting that more investment in these are of public spending at least might be a wise investment.

Instead, jobs at HMRC are being cut – 20,000 so far, with a further 5,000 to come, with an anticipated 200 office closures by next years.

The CPS claims that £11bn in declared taxes is already going begging because their members simply don’t have the resources to enforce collection.

None of this, incidentally, is designed to excuse the individuals who choose to rip off the welfare state by using society’s well-intentioned safety net as a cosy hammock.

Duncan Smith and his colleagues are quite right to challenge the culture of dependency which has grown up around joblessness in general and disability in particular.

But it would be heartening if they also challenged corporate Britain to plays its part in the Big Society - and gave public servants the resources they need to ensure it does so.

It’s time the government acknowledged that scroungers and spongers don’t just live on Council estates…

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