BY THE time you read this, the Chancellor George Osborne will have flashed his red box outside Number 10 and revealed its ugly contents, no doubt leaving us all thoroughly miserable and joining long queues outside Bargain Booze in an attempt to cheer ourselves up.
But we didn’t have to wait for the Budget for the boy George to put the boot in. A few days ago the Chancellor more than ruffled the feathers of a few BBC stars by closing the loophole on their ‘personal services’ companies. He has decided to put an end to what’s known as the Paxman tax ploy, where both BBC employees and civil servants receive incomes through their own companies, thereby lowering the amount of tax they pay. Around 100,000 BBC ‘employees’ including Jeremy Paxman and Fiona Bruce, and a host of civil servants use this ‘off the books’ tax dodge to reduce their payments, which is reported to cost the country £400 million in lost revenue.
The loophole has enabled those with personal services companies to pay corporation tax at 20% rather than personal income tax at up to 45%, plus National Insurance, helping them to avoid an average of more than £3,500 a year. All I can say to the boy George is – be very pleased that Paxo is no longer putting you on the spot on Newsnight. But he’ll find a way to extract his revenge.
I remember being at a Cheltenham Literature Festival event when Paxman bumped into the town’s then Liberal Democrat MP Martin Horwood off-stage just after his party had reneged on their promises on student tuition fees. They’re still cleaning the walls of the tent.
SHINY Dave’s PR team made an almighty cock-up this week when they sent a ‘one size fits all’ letter to all the regional daily newspapers in support of English Tourism Week. The letter was sent on the back of a Prince Charles initiative, urging people to take holidays in flood-hit areas.
One letter, signed by Cameron, was sent to the Yorkshire Post and began with the words “I love Yorkshire and the Humber” and was designed to highlight some of the region’s attractions and why this is the UK’s premier visitor destination. Downing Street Press officer Jonathan Bennett telephoned the Yorkshire Post in person to offer this “very personal” piece, but the editor was surprised when the letter arrived, as it made only passing reference to the misery caused by the Yorkshire floods.
Then the scale of the blunder became apparent. The Plymouth Herald published Cameron’s piece beginning with the words “I love Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly”. The same letter was carried by the Newcastle Chronicle and the Lincolnshire Echo (you can guess the intro). On it went: “From Hadrian’s Wall to Europe’s biggest sky park, this county is one of the many jewels in Great Britain’s crown” and for Lincolnshire “From the quaint market towns to the rolling countryside (rolling, Lincolnshire?) this is one of the many jewels in Great Britain’s crown”. Beginning to sound familiar?
All you talentless Jemima and Crispin PR tarts watch out. We seasoned hacks are old enough to know about ‘find and change’ and we can use Google – even if we lack GCSE Geography – as many of you clearly do. This was an utterly shameful PR ploy which I would expect a bunch of A-level students to roll out – not a highly-privileged group of Hooray Henries.
FINALLY, my ‘daft idea of the week award’ goes to the ‘innovation’ charity Nesta. They are advocating that sensors are fitted to the wheelie bins of frail pensioners so that if they haven’t put their bins out for a fortnight an alert goes to their GP, which would prompt them to make a call to their patient to check they are ok.
If you’ve broken your hip and are lying on the floor – which is the reality of the situation – after a fortnight much more than riga mortis will have set in. And can you image someone from your doctor’s surgery ever ‘phoning a patient? You really couldn’t make it up.
Kevan Blackadder is a media consultant who runs Blackadder Media Limited. Kevan was previously editor of the Gloucestershire Echo and assistant editor of the Bristol Post. A Cumbrian who moved to the South West “for a couple of years” in the 1980s, he can’t quite believe he’s been there ever since.