Friday, 10 February 2012

Armchair Auditing

Having been getting more and more fed up with the Government lines that the Private Sector is far more efficient than the Public sector, and that Benefit Claimants (and in particular Housing Benefit Claimants) are the reason that the government is in the mess that it is in, I started to wonder how much the State is subsidizing big business.  Well, in fact, business of any kind really.

The main method in which business is subsidised by us, the tax payers, it by topping up workers wages to a fair amount.  What's that I hear you cry, that can't be true! It is. Housing Benefit is paid to employed people too, as is Council Tax benefit.  Why do those people need to claim Housing and Council Tax benefit? Because those uber-efficient businesses have twigged that if they can pay below the amount that people need to live on (as determined, let us not forget, buy the government) their profits will be higher.  Since they have a legal obligation to maximise shareholder value, businesses have little interest in actually paying their staff enough to live on, especially when the State will cover it for them, and its not them that get condemned for it, its their greedy scrounging benefit claiming staff!

How can the Government claim that business is more efficient than the state, if the state is paying half of the costs of employing people?

I decided to do a bit of digging around the Housing Benefit Stats.  I wanted to find out to what extent is the state supporting business by paying for the housing costs of their staff.  Fortunately for me, previous governments have seen fit to let me get at some of the data that I need to get at least an outline picture of how big the issue might be. I'm sending the letter below to each of the local authorities that assess Housing Benefit.

To: $Council
Subject: Freedom of Information request - Information regarding Housing Benefit claim numbers and amounts
Dear $Council,

I would like to recieve the following information:

1. Number of active Housing Benefit Claims on the first Monday of
April each year for as far back as your records allow.
2. Number of active Housing Benefit Claims on the first Monday of
April each year where either (or both of) the Claimant or their
Partner is recorded as having had "Earned Income" on that date, for
as far back as your records allow.
3. The Total amount of Housing Benefit paid for the week starting
on the first Monday of April each year for as far back as your
records allow.
4. The Total amount of Housing Benefit paid for the week starting
on the first Monday of April each year where either (or both of)
the Claimant or their Partner is recorded as having had "Earned
Income" on the first Monday of April, for as far back as your
records allow.

I would like to make it clear that I would consider income from
Self Employment to be "Earned Income"

For your convenience, the dates of the first Monday of April for
the last 15 years are below:
04/04/2011
05/04/2010
06/04/2009
07/04/2008
02/04/2007
03/04/2006
04/04/2005
05/04/2004
07/04/2003
01/04/2002
02/04/2001
03/04/2000
05/04/1999
06/04/1998
07/04/1997

Many thanks for your help.

Yours faithfully,
Mr J Chandler


Now, one of the problems with this approach is that I cannot tell how many hours the people that are Earned Income Claimants (or partners) that I get told about are working.  This means that I catch all part time people who are also entitled to claim Benefits.  I have no problem with that at all, but I doubt that any Local Authority keeps that data, and in fact I would be more worried if they did.


I'll try to keep updating this as I get along, I'm hoping to get all of the letters sent out tomorrow. 

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