SOLIDARITY has already highlighted the hypocrisy of the Con-Dem slogan of us all somehow being in the same boat during this time of economic turmoil and job cuts. “We are all in this together” they like to say but do the facts match the rhetoric?
Let’s take a look at two people whose parts in public life could have a significant influence upon public spending cuts, the cuts that could result in many thousands of ordinary Britons being thrown onto the dole.
First up, a lady who will not need any introduction to regular visitors to this site: Margaret Hodge MP. Ms Hodge is a member of the wealthy Oppenheimer family which made its fortune in steel trading and controls 71% of Stemcor Holdings. Stemcor’s latest consolidated balance sheet shows net assets totalling £202 million and in 2009 it turned over in the region of £4 billion. Despite a controversial political career, Ms Hodge was appointed to the chair of the Public Accounts Committee in June. The PAC oversees government spending and as chair Ms Hodge will pocket an extra £15,000 per annum on top of her MP’s salary of £65,000. Perhaps she will come up with some more brilliant ideas on a par with her suggestion in 2005 that highly skilled workers made redundant by MG Rover should take jobs with Tesco?
The second person who may not exactly be in the same boat as the ordinary working Briton is Sir Philip Green who in August was appointed “Efficiency Tsar” to the government with a specific brief to carry out a review of government spending and procurement. Sir Philip is a retail billionaire with high street names such as BHS, Burton and Dorothy Perkins amongst his empire. He has recently come under fire from campaigners such as Ukuncut who highlight his tax arrangements. In an article in The Guardian of 13 August 2010 the BBC’s Money Programme is quoted as having estimated in 2006 using figures calculated by the accountant and campaigner Richard Murphy that Sir Philip and his family had saved themselves nearly £300 million in tax the previous year by partly residing in Monaco where residents do not have to pay income tax. Going back to 27 March 2005, The Guardian looked at his tax affairs in relation to his takeover of Arcadia in 2002: “The business empire of retail billionaire Philip Green is mostly held in the name of his wife, Tina, who is resident in Monaco. Taveta Investments, the vehicle used to acquire Arcadia in 2002, paid out a hefty £460m to its owner last year. Green, who spends much of his time in Britain, would have been landed with a £150m tax bill if he owned Taveta; as it is held by his wife, a miniscule amount of tax is due”. While we are, of course, not suggesting that Sir Philip has done anything other than make use of perfectly legal methods of avoiding tax, the fact remains that if more such wealthy people paid the full UK tax on all their earnings then public funds would be much healthier and the threats to jobs and public services would be reduced.
So are we really “all in this together”? From millionaire cabinet members to millionaire committee chairs to billionaire advisors it would seem that some are less “in this together” than most of us.