Thanks to the Daily Telegraph buying the purloined MP expenses CD we found out just how many of our politicians followed the ‘Greed is Good’ line from the 1970s. Now we are beginning to see how the very topmost layer of our civil service was quite happy to follow it also.
Last year the porcine Simon Burns, Minister of Health, answered an opposition question on whether Department of Health officials were billing the department via limited companies rather than taking a salary in order to minimize their taxes. He responded in the negative which we now find out was as close to telling a lie that’s possible without it actually being a lie. Of course the question allowed that line because it’s pretty obvious that once a civil servant changes to this form of remuneration he would no longer be a DoH employee.
Now we find out that there are number of senior civil servants, both in his department and in others, who use this method of lowering the taxes on their salaries. They change from being civil servants to being consultants and charging the departments they work for from limited companies they set up for this sole purpose. The suspicion is that they are doing exactly the same job as if they were a full time civil servant. What they seem to have in common is salaries that are over £100,000 and probably at levels where the 50p tax rate cuts in.
Let’s be generous and call this ‘tax avoidance’ rather than anything that whiffs of illegality, but what chance have we of senior civil servants in Customs and Revenue following through with actions to fight tax avoidance by large corporations when their mates are doing the same thing. It’s so much easier to come to an agreement over a lunch or dinner isn’t it.
The truth is that with the consensus on neo-liberal economic policies our elite in government, business and political class have been all to happy to adopt Gordon Gekko’s movie speech and use the bits that serve them well.
“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures, the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A.”
Time for Labour to say clearly ‘No, greed is not good’.