Buzz off Beecroft

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Adrian Beecroft seems to have all the answers. Unemployment presently blights the lives of millions of Britons and looks set to increase as Britain sinks further into recession.

So, in this time of economic woe, what's Beecroft's key recommendation to the government in his much anticipated report? Make it easier to sack workers. Brilliant.
When Business Secretary Vince Cable criticised the proposal, Beecroft once again displayed his penchant for thinking outside the box by branding Cable a "socialist".

Presumably it's this kind blue sky thinking that has made Beecroft successful as a venture capitalist and private equity peddler. Beecroft is Chairman of Dawn Capital which owns Wonga.com - the online short-term loan company, part of the market in "pay day" loans for people in desperate need of cash before their wages come through.

Wonga has faced widespread criticism that it preys on vulnerable people, making huge profits while its customers spiral into debt. Chairman Beecroft's irrepressible altruism certainly shines through the company, which charges 4,000 percent APR interest on its micro loans.

The Tories seem to live in a topsy-turvy world where Vince Cable is a socialist and Chairman Beecroft is a paragon of virtue. The Liberal Democrats are probably less worried about seeming too right-wing by association with their coalition partners (that ship has sailed), and more concerned to not seem completely bonkers.

For most people in Britain, the Conservative Party must seem to have parted company with reality. Apparently, the Tories even think that the stationery is left-leaning, as they are forever pledging to slash so-called "red tape".

Socialist Review can report that Vince Cable does not have a subscription to this august publication - almost certainly because he's about as far from being a socialist as Beecroft is from being a useful member of society.

Jack Farmer


No (tax) justice

The government claims to be appalled by tax avoidance by the rich. Back in January David Cameron declared that a "tougher approach" was needed towards large firms with "fancy corporate lawyers".

But not only is there little sign of a clampdown on big business' sharp accountancy practices but it turns out that the government is tolerating the same tricks in its own workforce.

Around 2,400 top civil servants are being paid off the government payroll, opening the door to the avoidance of income tax and national insurance.
Instead employment agencies or personal service companies are paid or the staff are claimed to be self-employed.

A government review revealed that more than 1,000 of those being paid off-payroll are IT contractors and that a majority are paid on a daily basis, with around 70 percent costing more than £400 a day.

Most have been employed in this way since the coalition came to office two years ago. But the practice has clearly been going for much longer, with 70 senior officials being paid this way for over 10 years.

The amounts of potential tax avoids involved might be small compared to the total "tax gap" of legally avoided, illegally evaded and simply uncollected tax, estimated at £120 billion by the PCS union. But it shows two things.

Firstly it shows how widespread the practice of off-payroll payments to senior staff has become. Secondly it shows that the government, far from cracking down on tax avoidance, is colluding in it.

Mark L Thomas


Wiggle room

As world leaders met at the end of May in Baghdad to discuss Iran's nuclear programme, Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak accused Iran of seeking "a little wiggle room" after it allowed inspectors onto some of its nuclear sites.
At home however, Israel sought, as usual, somewhat more than "a little wiggle room".
As it ratchets up rhetoric on Iran, Israel has been undertaking hectic settlement building in a crucial part of Jerusalem.

Last October the authorities approved plans for 2,610 houses and 1,110 hotel rooms in the area of Givat Hamatos in East Jerusalem. It would be the first new settlement project in East Jerusalem for 15 year - since the last government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu.

But the novelty, or indeed audacity, of the project is not the crucial factor. If completed a settlement at Givat Hamatos would cut off the Palestinian Arab population of Jerusalem from the checkpoint to Bethlehem and effectively the West Bank as a whole.

The move has been denounced by left Zionists who fear it would be the point of no return for the two state solution.

The settlement would be game changer, and while Palestinian young people have been united and organising around the popular hunger strikers campaign, Israel continues to play a very risky game.

Estelle Cooch