DWP have announced a new initiative to tackle benefit fraud. This mobile regional taskforce will visit areas around the UK to investigate possible benefit fraud.
At the Hands off Brum Services meeting on Wednesday, there will be further discussion about how we can protest this.
There is already a facebook event to discuss this, and the action is being supported by activists from UK Uncut and Disabled People Against the Cuts as well as Birmingham Against the Cuts, and hopefully PCS (who we need to talk to about this but we hope will be involved).
Whilst we would not say that benefit fraud is good or acceptable, we want to raise awareness of the scale of benefit fraud. This costs the taxpayer £1.2bn each year. At the same time, errors made by claimants or DWP costs the taxpayer £2bn each year [Source is a DWP PDF, Table 3.1 on page 21.].
How often do we hear about the government putting extra resources into working errors out of the system?
Additionally, there is a tax gap of £120bn [PDF source from Tax Research inc.] This consists of £25bn of tax avoidance, £70bn of evasion and £25bn of uncollected tax. Tax evasion, being illegal, is directly comparable to benefit fraud, whilst uncollected tax is directly comparable to errors made by DWP. Tax avoidance, which is legal but questionable doesn’t fit exactly with benefit fraud but is closer to it.
The government is not putting extra resources towards closing this gap – a sum which is 100 times the amount of benefit fraud. Instead they are cutting funding to HMRC. You may remember announcements at the end of last year that an extra £900m was going to be put towards chasing tax dodgers, but the reality was that this is simply a reduction in the level of cuts. HMRC will reduce resource spending by 15% and capital spending by 44%, with a possible 13,000 job losses [source].
So we will protest at the creation of a mobile regional taskforce, because it distracts from larger issues, scapegoats the working class and attacks genuine claimants, whilst having no possibility of achieving anything substantial in reducing the deficit.