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EASY TARGETS

13-05-2008

It’s emerged today that Serious Organised Crime Agency has shelved it’s original hit list of 130 serious lawbreakers after failing to bring a single prosecution. Meanwhile, as Barbara Panvel reports, officialdom has no problem with picking off easier targets.

Officialdom often appears to go for an easy target, one which is not time-consuming or dangerous.

People who receive wrongly estimated tax credits get bills for hundreds or even thousands of pounds from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs; Dame Barbara Mills, the adjudicator for HMRC complaints, has had an increasing number about tax credits. 74% of the complaints investigated were fully or partially upheld.

A West Midlands pensioner with a savings account, with all tax deducted at source, has now - for the first time in her life - to fill in a detailed & obscurely worded tax return because she has started signing Gift Aid forms for charitable donations.

People pictured in benefit fraud campaigns: pizza deliverers, unskilled casual labourers and single mothers working an afternoon in a cafe – like the pensioner – are easy target and will enable officials to tick many boxes.

The government lost around 900m in "benefit theft" in 2005 - a minor sum compared with the 97- 150bn loss due to tax theft which goes uncollected. There are no posters and TV ads featuring the City of London, first-class lounges of airports and affluent neighbourhoods where those most likely to commission or devise tax theft are to be found.

The stratagems adopted to meet hospital waiting list targets have been well documented - and recently a head teacher said: "Ofsted is a constant topic of conversation - so instead of, "what we can do to help the children?" we ask- "what have you done towards Ofsted targets?"

Minor offenders are easy targets: police had a ‘day of action’ - a parking blitz in Bexhill - issuing 77 parking tickets most of which were for the abuse of the two-hour waiting spaces.

In Bristol, with sirens wailing four squad cars and seven police officers evicted a group of pensioners from the Northavon bowls club, protesting about the 25% increase imposed by the council.

Such prompt and vigorous action would have been welcomed by the Nottingham family which dialled 999 as eight intruders were breaking into their house, using an axe, but they were told they would have to wait and the police arrived [safely] three hours later.

Motorists and pensioners are easier to catch than a burglar, give less trouble when caught, and are more likely to pay their fines. Ticks all round.

Birmingham Council is insisting that Nathaniel’s in conservation area Moseley must replace the standard design shutters by a weaker design. Many shops in that road have the same design but are not being required to change. To scrap £1000 worth of shutters and pay £1000 for a less strong design is a real burden for a small business.

The final appeal runs out very soon – another easy target ticked off.

(To see the story about the Serious Organised Crime Agency, click here)

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