COMMENT: POST OFFICES AND PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
The long awaited Inquiry into the Post Office “Horizon” scandal was due to open this week. Over 700 sub postmasters and mistresses were wrongly prosecuted for fraud and thousands more had their reputations and livelihoods destroyed. We now know that is was all down to serious flaws in new computer software the Post Office had installed. Many of the victims tried to point this out but were ignored. There are now strong claims that very senior figures in the Post Office knew about the flaw but kept quiet about it. I’ve been supporting several constituents who have yet to receive a single penny in compensation. Along with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Post Offices we won’t stop until the full truth comes out.
Hot on the heels of revelations about billions of pounds of public money being written off because of fraudulent claims on covid business loans, the Public Accounts Committee has reported that another £4 billion or more could be lost on “furlough fraud”. This was the scheme by which HMRC paid the wages of workers who were in lockdown. It was a life saver for thousands of legitimate businesses but it was thrown together in such a rush that it was too easy to put in bogus claims. The Committee found that HMRC are not doing enough to get this money back. To put these numbers into context, the total amount lost to fraud would be enough to run Fife Council for about ten years.
The UK Government still seems oblivious to the cost of living crisis hitting millions of families. Even the official inflation figures don’t tell the whole story because the price of essentials like food and fuel are rising much faster than official inflation. We’re also about to see the latest round of tax hikes hitting many low paid workers in a few weeks time. This is happening in one of the wealthiest places in the world. It’s not that Britain can’t afford to give everyone a decent standard of living. We have a political system that means we keep getting landed with governments that don’t care.
The SNP supported Labour’s debate on the cost of living but I couldn’t let Labour forget the promises they made to us in 2014 that we would have better pensions and lower food and fuel prices if we voted against Independence. Those promises have all been shown to be false. It’s very likely that the people of Scotland will get another chance to decide our future next year. I hope political parties with a long record of sticking up for ordinary folk will think long and hard about whether they once again tell us we can trust Westminster to look after us.