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Before the general election in 2010, David Cameron reminded us that Tony Blair had summed up his ambitions in three words, “Education, education, education”, then said he could manage his in three letters: “N.H.S.”
How wrong he was!
We now know that the correct three-word slogan would have been: “Omnishambles, omnishambles, omnishambles”!
Here’s three examples of Coalition government ineptitude that have fallen onto my desk during this morning alone.
1. The government is having to shred £350,000 worth of ballot papers for the Welsh police and crime commissioner elections after a late decision to print them in both English and Welsh.
There really is no excuse for this. I know for a fact that Labour and, I believe, Plaid Cymru were both pushing for bilingual ballots, months before now.
When Christine Gwyther heard the Home Office did not have Parliamentary approval for bi-lingual ballot papers and information to voters, she immediately took steps to rectify the matter, writing to Bryn Parry-Jones, the returning officer, who agreed to pursue it on an all-Wales basis. She told Labour’s Brecon and Radnorshire constituency party the story at its meeting in September, which was one and a half months ago at the time of writing.
The government says the cost will be met from the £75 million election budget. I find this unconscionable. People across the country are getting into terrible states of anxiety over how to afford an extra £20 or £30 a month due to benefit cuts (of which more in a moment), but this government is prepared to throw away hundreds of thousands of pounds because its members couldn’t be bothered to make a perfectly simple decision in a reasonable amount of time.
2. A senior Downing Street aide has quit working for David Cameron in order to join Wonga.com, the loan company that charges bizarrely exorbitant rates of interest – more than 4,000 per cent. This is according to Sky News.
Jonathan Luff has done this, allegedly, at a time when the Office of Fair Trading is trying to crack down on payday lenders and concern is high about the industry’s business practices. The question is whether the move will give Wonga inappropriate access to ministerial decision-makers.
I guess we’ll find out, if the issue mysteriously goes away in the immediate future, with no explanation.
Already, critics have denounced the move as a sign of what Conservative supporters are really interested in – not the good of the country, but the size of their bank accounts.
3. Finally, in an article on this very blog, I seem to have revealed ambiguities in the plan for the new, so-called “bedroom tax” that could add tens, if not hundreds of pounds to the cost for people renting council- or social houses.
It seems that it is unclear whether the amounts to be removed from housing benefit – 14 per cent for one extra bedroom, 25 per cent for two or more – are to be taken from the amount of benefit being paid, or from the total rent being paid on the property. One of my readers tells me that Cornwall Council has taken the latter stance, meaning a loss of £21 per week for the first spare bedroom, £29 per week for two – considerably more than the advertised average of £14 per week.
Social housing provider Bromford, on the other hand, states clearly that it is a household’s housing benefit entitlement that will be cut, which seems to make it clear that it is a percentage of the benefit, not the full rent.
One wonders whether the government will stir itself to provide a definitive answer before the new rules come into practice next April. I shall not be holding my breath in anticipation.
Oh, and households with students away from home for less than 52 weeks per year – exempted under the new rules – will find that Cornwall Council doesn’t see it that way, either. from the form letter: “If you have an extra bedroom(s) for children who don’t live with you full time, the Government will count this as a spare bedroom and your benefit will be cut.”
Bubbling under, we have the accusation against Business Secretary Vince Cable that he slept through the new Cabinet Growth Committee’s meetings, as he seems to know nothing about them despite being, as I understand it, the vice-chair.
Coming soon: Borishambles.