Sunday, March 12, 2006

Recent Bonfires- 7

In the news this week:

£130m loss from pensions errors- "MINISTERS are to write off almost all the £130 million paid in error... there will be no effort to reclaim the cash, either because it would cause hardship, or because it was a result of clerical error. In such circumstances the Government is obliged by law to forgo the cash... overpayment on means-tested pension credit and income support has trebled in the past three years to £130 million last year. Ministers feared a repeat of the scandal over tax credits were they to attempt to recover the money...there has been criticism of the aggressive “automatic clawback” from low-paid households. David Ruffley, the Conservative welfare spokesman, said that ministers had put out confusing messages on the overpayment of pensions and were “all over the shop — how can pensioners have any faith in what they say after this fiasco?” (Times 11.3.06)

£35m lost to government dithering- "Patricia Hewitt, the health secretary, approved the redevelopment of St Bartholomew's hospital and the Royal London after delays which patient groups and the hospital trust claimed had added £35m to the £1.1bn cost. Duncan Dymond, a consultant cardiologist at Barts, said: "We came very, very close to losing the whole PFI scheme, so thank goodness we have got there in the end." But he criticised the changes which would leave three floors empty, saying they would still cost money in heating, cleaning and maintaining. "It will mean the hospital has fewer beds to earn money." (Guardian 9.3.06)

£56,000 for Hewitt speechwriter- "PATRICIA HEWITT is to hire a personal speechwriter to overhaul the flagging reputation of government health policy as deficits in the NHS continue to soar. Days after revelations that health service debts have passed £800 million this year, it has emerged that the Department of Health is inviting applications for the new role of speechwriter to help to sell its controversial reforms. Advertisements for the part-time post suggest that the successful applicant can expect up to £56,000 a year for only 18 hours’ work a week — the equivalent of almost £70 an hour. The rate, which would amount to a £120,000 annual salary, is 30 per cent higher than that paid to President Bush’s leading speechwriter." (Times 11.3.06)

£930m on unwanted training- "The Learndirect scheme is run by Ufi Ltd and provides training courses at 2,400 centres across the country or via the internet. It has received £930m of funding since it was set up in 1998. But a PAC report revealed that just 37% of small and medium-sized businesses were aware of the service - and just 4% enrol their staff on its courses. The report also raised concerns about Learndirect's finances - and said Ufi's management and marketing costs, which take up nearly 30% of its budget, were "far too high". (BBC News 7.3.06)

This week's total- £1,o95,056,000

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