Monday, 11 May 2009

Snouts in the Trough

Having written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, a complete waster by the name of James Purnell, I had expected to at least get an acknowledgement that my letter had been received. To date, nothing. Not even from his minions within the Department of Work and Pensions. How rude!

I have read on other forums that people have written to various ministers and received no reply. They have even been defended on some as being too busy with their day to day duties to be able to respond to the countless letters that they receive from various people. However, I think I know the real reason why.

It appears that British Members of Parliament spend an awful lot of their time finding ways to fleece the British public that voted them in, and then claiming that these are legitimate expenses. Examples that have been quoted are an MP who claimed for a Kit Kat, another who claimed for tampons and even one who claimed that she felt unsafe in her own London home and claimed more than £25,000 for security patrols, despite being a millionaire.

There has also been much concern about MPs second home allowance, which they receive so that they are able to live in London because their home or constituency makes it impractical for them to commute. However, it was revealed in 2007 that 16 London MPs are claiming more than £20,000 a year for second homes, even though they live less than an hour's commute from Westminster.

Another MP, less than a year after being elected, put in a detailed claim for various repairs to a house that she had already lived in for five years! Even the Solicitor General is at it, claiming for 'miscellaneous items' which it was spotted were a Christmas tree and decorations. On that occasion the claim was not paid, but what's the betting that it was claimed back some other way. At least she didn't try to claim for porn films watched by her husband, which is what the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, did.

Purnell had a second home in Covent Garden, which he claimed more than half of the rent on expenses each month, despite the fact that his girlfriend allegedly contributed half of the rent. When he moved out recently, he lost his deposit of £2,500 because, according to his landlord, he left the flat like a pigsty. So what happened to the £1,600 that Purnell claimed for employing a cleaner. Not surprisingly, Purnell has denied that the flat was as bad as claimed. Similar to the denial that he had allowed himself to be 'photoshopped' into a photograph. Perhaps he was late for the photo shoot because he was busy lining his pockets elsewhere.

All the information regarding expenses was recently published in a National newspaper, and Parliament is far from happy. The reason is that they had always vehemently opposed scrutiny of their expenses. Straight away, to me, this raises suspicions. However, the Commons authorities lost the legal battle and the expenses were due to be published on July 1st. Now they've been leaked to a newspaper and parliament has called in the Police. That seems to be a case of 'We've been caught with our fingers in the till, so we'll call the Police and try to deflect it onto someone else'. If the expenses were due for publication anyway, is this not a huge (further) waste of public money, or were the expenses due to be 'sanitised' prior to publication, and the leaking has circumvented the sanitation process?

It’s interesting to read just how much work an MP actually does (or not, in most cases). And it’s not that difficult to find out. In fact, there's a web site, appropriately titled And I think that this is where the problem arises. Unfortunately, once politicians are elected, they forget that they are nothing more than public servants, and often very transient ones at that, sometimes in the 'job' of being an Member of Parliament for as little as four years. The hierarchical system means that the only guidance that they seem to receive from their more senior colleagues is in how to take advantage of other 'perks' that they were unaware of and line their pockets further. Maybe that's why so many of them spend so much time trying to fleece the system for as much as they can get.

Sadly, a legal precedent has now be set that means that MPs do not actually have a duty to their constituents, which I guess gives them free rein to do nothing whilst getting paid large sums and taking every opportunity to line their own pockets. Isn't democracy great.

Suspecting that Purnell would turn out to be an utterly useless oxygen thief, I also wrote to Mary Quinn, another waste of skin public servant. I had written to this woman previously, about two years ago, so am qualified to describe her as I have.

In my five page letter, I have catalogued the total incompetence of the agency of which she is head and given her two weeks to sort the mess out. However, I firmly believe that Mary Quinn, the Chief Executive of the Child Support Agency, is so incompetent that she couldn't find her own arse with a map, a person pointing to her arse to show her where it was and a huge neon sign saying 'Your arse is here' if she was given two lifetimes, so I don't hold out much hope.
Normally, someone this incompetent would have been removed from post and reassigned to something more in keeping with her apparent abilities, counting paperclips perhaps, but Mary Quinn, the Chief Executive of the Child Support Agency is fortunate that she has Purnell as Secretary of State, a man who probably doesn't realise that there is a problem.

Having written to Quinn, in which I gave her four tasks that I expected her to perform in a fortnight and actually stating:
'I expect you carry out the above personally, as I have already seen that your minions are actually incapable of performing the duties for which they have been employed.'
the only response that I have had so far is a telephone call from the complaints department to inform me that they had received my complaint and that someone would contact me within a few days. Obviously, Quinn is too stupid to follow simple instructions, so has passed it on to an equally incapable minion, who telephoned in an effort to placate me almost a week ago. Again, I don't hold out a lot of hope of a solution.

Perhaps I should take a leaf out of the book of a man named Mr Daz. The CSA will no longer talk to this man on the telephone because, like the CSA, he records all of his phone calls. But, unlike the CSA, he uploads these calls to the Internet, including one where they have informed him that they will only communicate with him by post, before going on to reveal that although they have his correct address in their records, they have been sending all communication to him to the wrong address. Genius! At least it has proven that I'm not the only one that talks to morons when I telephone this agency.

On a far more cheery note, last weekend saw myself and my sons make the annual trip to Twickenham for the Army v Navy rugby match, or, as it should be called, the Fiji v Navy rugby match.

Drinking started early, in fact as soon as we arrived at Waterloo at 1115 and carried on for pretty much the rest of the day, with just a short break for the match, although it was more of a rout, the Army winning 50-7.

Alec's godfather, Guy, had travelled down from Shropshire with his girlfriend and her daughter and we were also able to meet up with H. Sadly, this may be the last time that myself and the boys all go together as Alec will probably be in Guyana next year, at Sandhurst the year after and then who knows.

It was odd being back in Twickenham, as well, as I had lived there as a child and Guy and I had gone to college there. In fact, as we made our way back to Richmond station along the river, there was much reminiscing going on, admittedly much of it with the boys saying 'Do we want to know about this!?!'

So now it’s back to the real world and preparing for a TA exercise next weekend. Hope it doesn't rain too much!

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