In Britain, there exists a pervasive belief that welfare recipients are nothing more than idle parasites: a collective drain on society, happy to receive but not to contribute. This notion is encouraged and perpetuated by elements of the right-wing press, then regurgitated and proliferated by its readership; much to the satisfaction, no doubt, of the Tories. It is of course absolute bunkum, and provably so upon examination of the relevant figures.
Food banks are not part of the welfare system, but this doesn't change the uncomfortable fact that there are now over 300 of them in Britain. Whilst the likes of Katie Hopkins are happy to berate food bank users as being 'people perfectly happy to live a life on the take', they can't bring themselves to mention the guilty parties who regularly, indeed routinely, avoid paying tax.
It's no secret that regulatory loopholes and offshore havens allow corporations and wealthy individuals the legal means to avoid paying vast sums in tax. This has been going on for years, and seems a somewhat more fitting example of a people living 'on the take'. So too do the number of MPs - all earning at least £66,396 a year - who had the nerve to call for cheaper alcohol prices in the House of Commons bars (which are already subsidised by the taxpayer), but I digress.
The size of the tax gap varies depending on who you listen to, but it's massive even by the official estimate at £35 billion (this is the HMRC figure which also factors in evaded tax). It has been alleged, however, that the real cost to the treasury through avoidance or non-payment is in excess of £120 billion a year. Instead of remaining in greedy private hands, this money could be being put to rather better use. Indeed, with all of that cash it would be possible for the government to relax its squeeze on the poor, thus negating the need for food banks (although whether the government would want to relax its squeeze on the poor is another matter). For Katie's crowd, this seems likely to fall on deaf ears; they appear to revel in attacking those who have less. Much less. Perhaps it was for this reason that Katie decided her diatribe against food banks should be featured in the Huffington Post's entertainment section.
Speaking of the perceived failure of the government to curb the tax gap, Shadow Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Shabana Mahmood said:
''. . . we need a government that takes tax avoidance seriously and is on the side of the majority of families and businesses who pay their fair share.''
Fine words, but we don't need a government which merely 'takes tax avoidance seriously'. We need a government which would make tax avoidance illegal. The public purse is missing out on hundreds of millions of pounds in tax revenues every year. It hardly seems too much to ask. Government tax rules are not an unalterable law of nature; they can - and should - be changed. So will they be? Despite an agreement reached at the G20 earlier this year to tackle international tax avoidance and evasion, it transpires that the tax gap increased by £1 billion in the year 2011-12, regardless of the fact that since 2010 the government has apparently thrown another billion at solving the problem. Sterling work (no pun intended).