In no particular order, and with no special weighting, here are a few facts gleaned from the media with help from friends of Thus at Ten. Please feel free to send in your own facts. We need them in this era of spin and errant fantasy:
68% of Britons believe that MP’s salaries are ‘too generous’; only 4% say they’re too modest. According to a Times survey, 27% of voters say that all or nearly all MPs abuse the their expenses, 42% think that a majority of MPs do so; by contrast, 20% say that a majority of MPs do not abuse the system, but many do, while just 8% per cent say that very few MPs do.
According to the Taxpayers’ Alliance, more than 100,000 council employees are paid six-figure salaries, and at least 16 receive more than the prime minister’s £194,250 a year. Some of the lower paid but most useful nevertheless spend their loot on deep-fried Mars Bars. Anyone who has visited a hospital recently will be unsurprised to note that of the 1.2 million people employed by the NHS, 300,000 are classed as obese while a further 400,000 are classed as overweight. The canteens – with the notable exception of Great Ormond St. – generally offer the unhealthiest food to be seen apart from at UK motorway Service stations – another triumph for outsourcing.
Fred Goodwin, the disgraced former head of RBS, paid out £100,000 a month on part-time chauffeurs and had fruit flown in daily from Paris.
The UK Post Office, threatened with takeover by the equally-incompetent Dutch post office, spends £1m on buying 872 million elastic bands every year because posties keep throwing them on the ground when delivering mail.
According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the UK’s deficit is about 2.7% more than Alistair Darling acknowledged in the pre-Budget report; so much so that the government may have to find £39bn a year by the end of 2015/16, to plug the gap in its finances. On the other hand, the government’s much-criticised 2.5% cut in VAT, which expires in January 2010, has led to £2.1bn of extra sales according to the relatively objective Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). If true (earlier evidence suggested the contrary) who would have guessed that cutting taxes stimulates sales and that New Labour would espouse such a policy?
The government has become the biggest spender on advertising in Britain – every day the nation is bombarded with over 10,000 state-sponsored messages via radio, television, billboards, magazines, newspapers and the internet – at a cost of £400m a year. Under New Labour, Central Office of Information (COI) spending has more than trebled, while the number of Whitehall press officers and spin doctors soared from 300 in 1997 to more than 3250 by 2006. But despite the above messages of reassurance, a Mental Health Foundation report more than 800,000 UK citizens report growing feelings of anxiety and fear. According to the Office of National Statistics, more than 7 million are suffering from stress. Causes include the economy, crime and, unsurprisingly, the rise in surveillance, snooping and anti-terrorist measures implemented and advertised by the government itself.