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UK politics

Whitehall’s wasted billions

Can we trust civil servants with our money?

British workers are “shouldering the highest tax burden since the end of the Second World War”, says Camilla Tominey in The Daily Telegraph – and we’re about to be hit by a national insurance rise in April. Yet the money we hand over to the government is spent appallingly. There are 330 civil servants paid more than the prime minister’s £160,000 salary – Mark Thurston, chief executive of HS2, is on a whopping £620,000 a year. I’m sure this “fat-cat controller” is perfectly capable at his job, but if we can find someone to run the country for £160,000, then why not a railway line to Birmingham?

The waste goes far beyond plush salaries. Last November, the civil service sent staff on two-day wellness courses which included activities like a “Beginners Guide to Crystal Healing and Deep Relaxation”, and “reshaping negative thoughts and language into positive affirmations” – all taking place during work hours. The Department for Health and Social Care spent nearly £50,000 on takeaways from “Bong Bongs Manila Kanteen” during lockdown. “Do civil servants not know how to make a sandwich and place it in a lunchbox?” In total, more than £5.5bn is being wasted across the government, according to a November 2020 investigation by the TaxPayers’ Alliance. “This lack of respect for the taxpayer is obscene and needs to stop.”

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