There were 31,100 excess winter deaths last year, with 25,600 linked to fuel poverty in the elderly. In an interview with the BBC’s Daily Politics, Work and Pensions secretary Iain Duncan-Smith (IDS) shared his personal method of keeping warm: burn public money.
IDS is fortunate to live rent free in the £2m country estate of his aristocratic father in law, set in three acres of grounds, with tennis courts and swimming pool. But without his parliamentary expenses, he would have been forced to face the rising cost of energy out of his own pocket. “You see I was able to burn £134, 565 in salary and expenses alone last year. It’s kept me virtually balmy.”
In the Betsy Gate scandal of 2001, it was revealed that the tax payer was paying £15,000 a year for IDS’s wife to become his ‘diary secretary’. There is ample evidence that Betsy didn’t perform any such role worthy of the salary, which was hardly likely to register in the bank accounts of the daughter of the moneyed 5th Baron Cottesloe of Swanbourne and Harwick. “Well of course Betsy didn’t lift a finger! Other than to warm her hands on the glow of all that public money going up in smoke.” laughed IDS in a recent interview.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) spent £112.4m on Atos Work Capability Assessments in 2011/12, only to lose another £50m funding the appeals of sick and disabled people who had lost their benefit entitlement after being wrongly judged ‘fit to work’. He simply snorted with laughter at this point in the interview.
“But far and away the biggest pyre I have burning at the moment is Universal Credit” IDS announced with a mock salute. The brain child of IDS, Universal Credit will roll 6 benefits into one, reduce the benefit entitlement of at least 2.8m people, and make benefit applications available only online.
In September this year, amid rumours the IT project was facing significant issues and likely to vastly exceed both budget and time estimates, IDS stated “This is not an IT disaster. This will be delivered in time and on budget,”.
The project’s budget has actually been multiplied six times since 2010 – originally estimated at £2.2bn, the project is now set to cost £12.8bn. It was announced this week that a further £40m has been spent on code that is not fit for purpose, and has been written down. This means – wasted. The project is no longer on schedule to serve all benefit users by 2017.
It is unclear whether the project will ever come to fruition, or what the eventual cost will be to the taxpayer. It is nothing short of a disaster. But this doesn’t appear to bring IDS down.
“Every cloud has a silver lining. I’ll no doubt gain a lucrative consultancy or directorship role from all this when I step down as an MP. To some it may look like a disaster, to me it looks like solid pension plan. Some public money can be burned to heat us today, the rest will keep us warm for many years to come.”
As the interview drew to a close, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions belched exuberantly and patted a noticeably more ample midriff. “Do excuse me!” he pleaded. “I’m bloated after a rather sumptuous breakfast. It would have cost me £39, but…expenses.”
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