10 August 2010

Treading a well-trod path

Not very convincing, is it? The Independent reports:

An "uncompromising" crackdown on benefit cheats will be unveiled in the autumn, David Cameron pledged today.

The Prime Minister said reducing the £5.2 billion annual cost of fraud and error would be the "first and deepest" cut in public spending.

I mean, it's the kind of thing all Prime Ministers say. And it secures a headline or two. But the promised crackdown never seems to materialise. The cost of benefit fraud is said to be £1.5 billion; but this represents less than 1% of total benefit costs of over £160 billion. Is it even possible to eliminate all fraud? Or is there an irreducible minimum, up with which we simply have to put?

As for error, that can hardly be the fault of the claimants. And who was it that made the system so complicated in the first place? (And Gordon Brown is not the sole culprit.) Furthermore, reducing civil servant numbers is unlikely to improve matters.

This government needs to do better.

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