05 March 2010

Perfidity, perjury, punishment and proportionality.

  With the 'revelation' of Lord Ashcroft's non-dom status, amidst all the mudslinging, point scoring, 'Your donor is richer and more of a tax-dodger than mine…' and general yah, boo, sucks! it is easy to loose sight of the fact that a peer of the realm, who could easily be a powerful player in the governance of the country openly does not keep promises and blatantly thinks they are in the right, firmly denying the pervasive mood of the country.  Like our old pals and their expenses, he may be within the letter, but is very far from the spirit, of the law.


A shift of scene, six or seven years ago, with Lord Ashcroft's promise to become a UK taxpayer from 2001, a fleeing memory, the city in which I lived, or more precisely it's council, changed their housing benefit policy. Rather than receive the amount of rent.  You now would receive a flat rate, and either have to make up the short fall, or if the flat rate were more than the amount of rent you could keep the difference.


At this time I lived in a shared flat with an extremely honest flat mate, he had lived off savings for a year before even claiming HB and could not believe that this money was his to keep. He spent a few hours on the phone trying to find who to return the money to. No one seemed interested, in fact many with whom he spoke were amazed that he wasn't happy to keep the money. Eventually one council worker said, why don't you keep the money aside and look for a nicer flat?


My pal didn't take this advice, but I did. Not long after I found a flat share out of town and made plans to move.  Moving is a big hassle and quite an expense, and here, hands up, is my dishonest downfall. When I returned to my old flat to pick up the mail, there was a fresh HB cheque. I know I shouldn't have, but I was skint, I'd just moved...


Only once I told my self, after the third time the cheques stopped coming.  Then I got a few letters at my new address, and a visit from HB investigators, they offered me an option of re-paying the overpayment with an 50% surcharge, which I accepted, but having insufficient income, I could only manage a token sum, when I moved again, I took an un-authorised repayment holiday.


At my latest address, the council took me to court, where I agreed to pay back the 150% amount, plus further fees, at a set amount per month, which I did until I lost my job. Go on to miss 2 payments and there is a letter from the Sheriff’s Officer demanding the full amount in 14 days, or wages may be arrested, and goods seized, leading even to bankruptcy. My friends say the best option is to move, and not register to vote, as the electoral roll is how my creditors, those who've bought my debt and their agents, have tracked me down.  Many with bigger or smaller debt than mine have dropped off the radar, to avoid or delay legal action, I foolishly perhaps, think my vote is still worth something.


The next day, too soon for action for many people I presume, and certainly for me, two Sheriff’s officers arrive with the same papers, adding their own fees to the total. I know these are just guys doing a job in hard times, but it is hard not to think of the words vultures and jackals. And wouldn’t the effort to pursue me, be better spent collecting tax from the super rich tax avoiders?


Good news, I got a (part time - seasonal - temporary) job! I start in 4 weeks, but, less good news, I won't get any money for 6 weeks.  The dole will stop the day I start work, the bank will not extend my overdraft or consider a loan.  I've been trying to sell a few items of small value online since Christmas, but no one's buying... If I had my tax rebate the wolf could be kept from the door, but that cannot be claimed until next month.  The amount I now 'owe' has almost doubled from the original overpayment. In all that time I have earned very little above minimum wage or been unemployed.


What would be the amount of Lord Ashcroft's taxes if he had paid them as a full UK resident from the day he became a peer?  What would be the amount if this were doubled with fees, and surcharges? And lastly what would be the actual effect on Lord Ashcroft's life if he had to cough up the full amount in 14 days, or else; "wages may be arrested, and goods seized, leading even to bankruptcy"?  I’ll pay this debt off, it’ll take 5-6 years, but if I’m on the electoral roll I’ve little choice.


Only the choice to drop off the radar and loose what feels like an increasingly worthless vote… Unlike our MPs I don't have the means to simply write a cheque for the full amount concerned in the 'misunderstanding'. On the day one of the last socialists died, the day my papers were served, should I give up my tiny voice in government? While fatter cat's by far, pocketing tens of thousands of times the amount I’m pursued for, prepare to take that Government's reins.





  1. Really good piece. Really good.

  2. Oh turminder....what a bloody situation to be in. It reminds me of the old biblical adage which goes something like -

    "To him that hath shall be given, from him that hath not shall be taken even that which he hath"

  3. Ah, tis not so bad, the jobstarts soon, but the irony was too sweet not to share..

  4. It's always the way it goes, though. The bastards who already have too much get away with the most egregious things and the poor souls who are just trying to survive get screwed.

  5. Brilliant piece. My step - aunt (have a very convoluted family tree) was recently told she owed the tax man. She is PAYE but some sort of mistake had been made between her employer and her maj's customs etc. She was quite happy to pay up thinking it would be a few bob a month. They took forty percent of her salary for three months running.

    I still cant believe it and don't know if she has got confused over it all as it seems astonishing that they could just do this. She luckily has some small savings so she can pay her bills.

    My husband owed some tax last year and they just altered his tax free amount for this year.

    But to the point of the article - it really is one rule for us and one rule for them. And what really angers me is that for your average right winger this is fine. I have family who are to the right of Thatcher and they are not rich. But they think it is perfectly fine and okay for people to 'avoid' tax - because it is legal. Yet someone signing on who does a bit of work for some much needed money is scum of the earth who should be locked up.

    I don't get what would make people think in a way that goes against their own economic interests again and again. I fear the fuedal attitude of forelock tugging is alive and well in dear old Blighty these days and I for one am getting thoroughly pissed off with it.

    I hopw you get this sorted without too much stress Turminder.

  6. It isn't just Blighty, PCC. There are way too many working class and poor Americans who are happy to vote against their own economic well-being from a mixture of a misguided belief that they, too, might one day be one of the wealthy and an equally misguided belief that the Republican Party is the 'family values' party.

  7. It's fucking outrageous that you should have to lose your vote to keep the wolf from the door. Good luck to you, mate.

  8. Hell's teeth turminder hope you get it sorted. In Glasgow, the benefit turmoil is a MAJOR cause of stress among council and housing assocation tenants - it is so, so easy, to miss a payment and drift off into trouble.

    I once suggested to my HA that the council could break the circle by just giving an amnesty to all tenants - the money is never going to be repaid anyway, but was told that this was impossible for legal reasons, The paradox is that criminals are exploiting the system on a large scale - many of the Roma in Govanhill live in awful slums owned by crooks. The Roma are highly visible in Glasgow - there are at least a dozen selling the Big Issue in the west end alone and they have become the focus for much hatred. Yet the real villains are the landlords, who seem untouchable.

    Council housing staff themselves have been convicted of housing benefit fraud, There was a case about five years ago involving enormous sums of money, and most Glaswegians assume it still goes on.

    An amnesty is the only way forward - and an effort to tackle the real bloody crooks.

  9. Cracking article turminder.

    Edwin, Glasgow Council still suffers from the poll tax legacy and the fact that commuter suburbs are almost all outside of the Glasgow City Council area.

    The council have never made up for the mass scale ''can't pay, won't pay'' campaign of the 80's and the fact that thousands 'disappeared' off the voting rolls. An amnesty is the best solution, undoubtedly.

    The daily 'brain drain' where commuters come in from East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire etc to work in and use the facilities of Glasgow and leave again has been a major source of underfunding.

    There's no contribution to the city coffers from the leafier, comfortable suburbs despite a few attempts to integrate them into Glasgow.

    A double whammy right enough.

  10. Absolutely right about the commuters your Grace.

    And right about poll tax - I used to get threatening letters demanding £0.00 in arrears that got more threatening as time went on! I let it go for a while then wrote to the council telling them I was writing an article for the Evening Times (I lied) on how they didn't know their arrears from their elbow, and got a panic-stricken phone call saying 'Our Mistake!'

    I think amnesties have to come on - too many people have got entangled in this mess and no one is paying the arrears or 'arrears'.

  11. Great article Turminder.

    Similar problems here in Wales. half this village took their 18 year olds off the register years ago. Small mining village - men put on dole then Incapacity- most have not worked since miners' strike. Worst hit were the then teenage boys who had been poorly educated in lousy shools in preparation for spending their lives in a hole in the ground. They were left stranded.

    as a result we have very high levels of people on benefits. Some learned the tricks of the trade - others not. A couple are unnofficial 'benefits advisors' and train people in what to say and how to say it!

    The system is now catching up with them - people who have struggled for years, supporting each other are being criminalised - being sent off to do community service in charity shops etc and having benefits reduced. many have to repay money long gone and fall into the hands of the money lenders - at enormous interest rates.

    I get so angry when celebs sleep rough or stay on a council estate for a week - pretending to understand, to experience it and get to know "the people". no problem when you know you have a warm home and a fat bank account to go back to.

    The whole system is corrupted by greed and a twisting of logic posing as morality among those at the top. Why people allowthemselves to be patronised by them - and worse still vote for them is a mystery. Most know they will never be rich or benefit from the system - some kind of blind and fatal collusion which helps to perpetuate it all.

    Glad you have a job and will be able to sort things out soon.

  12. Edwin

    I wonder- if there were an amnesty - more people on the register which party it would benefit?

    Also curious to know how much it effected the last census figures - and budgets for local services. I have no idea of the numbers involved - fairly high here certainly.

    We . like Scotland, get Barnet formula money based per capita.

  13. Turminder, a lot of clarity here as well as heart. Really good piece.