I have been watching with some amusement, the latest efforts by the Home Office to 'do something' about the 'flood' of immigrants they expect to get from Romania and Bulgaria. The Home Secretary has been making noises about 'capping' the number of immigrants from within the EU, which, as the Deputy PM has pointed out is illegal and discriminatory. It seems to have escaped the notice of the British Press however, that the Danish Interior Ministry, and the Danish EU Commissioner free movement of workers within the EU has nailed the flaw in Mrs May's arguments.
The problem is that Britain has become a magnet for those looking for handouts because it has the most generous 'benefit' system in Europe, the easiest to gain access to, and the easiest to defraud. As the Danish lady said - stop trying to restrict the numbers, and fix the system that draws them in!
That, unfortunately, isn't going to happen. I know there is a huge uproar at the moment about cuts to a wide range of benefits, but the reality is that, in real terms, it is the old pea under the cup trick. While some, often the most in need of help, are losing out, the money is simply being 'rearranged' and the cheats, the idle and the manipulative aren't losing out. The 'rights' lawyers are having a ball, and raking in cash left right and centre 'fighting' for the handouts to migrants from non-EU countries and 'vulnerable minorities' while the pensioners, disabled, and chronically sick who don't have the connections, bear the brunt of it.
Parliament can, in the meantime, award itself a pay rise, bigger pension benefits and expenses claims, but is afraid to tackle the root cause of much of the UK's financial woe - the out of control 'benefit' system. To pay for this the last government raided Pension Funds, destroying some, reducing others to near bankruptcy and accusing all pensioners of 'being a drain on the economy'. A bit rich from a bunch of professional parasites sitting on gold-plated pensions themselves, especially as 'Pensions' are not a 'Benefit'. Everyone in receipt of one has contributed toward it through their employer, through their tax and through direct contributions. In my own case an average throughout my working life of 5% of salary in direct contribution, an amount matched for most of that time by my employer. So called National Insurance is supposed to pay for 'Unemployment Benefit', pensions and, some think, the National Health Service. It currently runs at 11% of earnings, plus an employer's contribution, but most of it simply vanishes into the Whitehall Black Hole. It is not, and never has been, an 'insurance' in the same sense as a policy taken out with an insurance company, nor has a single penny of it been invested for the future.
So now we have the spectacle of politicians having set up systems to 'redistribute' wealth from some, to those they and their civil servant chums consider 'deserving' and blaming those who have paid toward pensions and security for their families, being blamed for it being unaffordable. So now they resort to fraud and deceit to find solutions. One is the move to change the Fire and Rescue Service Pension age to 60. There were, and still are, very sound medical grounds for the present maximum retirement age being 55. The Minister is being misinformed, or possibly disingenuous when he says that any fire fighter forced to leave the service before age 60 will still get a full pension. The fact is that they won't. In fact many may have to leave the service at 50 - and will lose 10 years value from it. This is in the 'Report' the relevant department cooked up - it actually admits that potentially 91% of fire fighters won't be able to meet the fitness standards at age 50 or lower!
The fire fighters are an easy target, they're high profile, and their pension scheme appears very generous, so it is easy to spread the lie it 'isn't earned'. I note the politicians aren't admitting that the fire fighters pay 11% of income into it over their 30 year careers - money that is not - again - invested, but spent by the Local Authority concerned to 'redistribute' wealth on pet projects. I was particularly angered to note on a forum I frequent, that a non-Fire fighting "Area Manager" (Old money equivalent of a Senior Divisional Officer/DO I) 'managing' that other great shibboleth "Human Resources" was arguing that fire fighters should accept that the service isn't a 'lifetime career' any longer, and the pension benefits were too generous. Rich, considering that she has parachuted into the service at the same pay as the fire fighter who used to manage that function, and is now likely to draw the pension she and others like her are trying to deny the 'resources' they are supposed to take care of.
As I said, the fire fighters, police, soldiers, ambulance workers and other 'service' personnel are easy targets. They are relatively small in numbers, so the politicians can afford to sacrifice their possible votes. Likewise the ill, the aged and the disabled. What they will NOT tackle is the massive handout culture they have created since 1909 when the 'universal pension' was first introduced. Since then we have seen 'benefit' after 'benefit' added to the list, and alongside of that we have seen the growth of industries to preserve them. So we have the 'human rights' lawyers, the Union Lobby, the Student lobby, the minorities lobby and so on - all of whom defend their particular interests with threats of disruption or mayhem if there is any attempt to address some of the imbalances that have arisen.
Pensioners are still painted as 'abusing' the system even though they have, in the main, paid for what they get. So do many of the younger folk now facing retiring (if they can) at 67, 69, 70 or later. The Danish Minister is right, Britain needs to tackle the culture of 'benefits' that are creating the unrealistic expectation of being able to live comfortably on these handouts for life without ever having to work. Only then will the 'migrancy' problem go away.
Unfortunately, that is the least likely course of action the present or any future government will take.