An article has appeared in today's Sunday Telegraph reporting that nine members of Ed Miliband’s opposition team have received free help from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the accountancy giant that helps its clients avoid millions of pounds worth of tax a year. The article, authored by Robert Watts Deputy Political Editor, lists those involved, amongst whom is Ed Balls whose disclosure in the latest Register for Members’ Interests shows that he has accepted "the services of a research assistant/analyst to support him in his opposition front bench role" for a four-day-a-week second between January and April of this year and that the arrangement is valued at £59,976, based on the PwC worker’s salary.
The article does not specifically state that this free help is for personal gain, neither does it state that it is to assist politicians with their parliamentary business. The criticism by John Mann, Labour, that it appeared that there was now a PwC “caucus” within parliament seems valid - especially when noting those ex-PwC employees now occupying senior positions in politics and advisory bodies.
If we take Ed Balls as an example - and the question can be put to every politician who has accepted these free services - what exactly are the duties of these research assistants/analysts and what support is provided. While their services may be free what, if any, other payments are made? Who pays their travel costs if said research assistants/analysts are required to accompany their political masters on visits/meetings outside Westminster? We all remember, during the Expenses Scandal, of reports of politicians claiming tax advice on their expenses. Unless the duties of these research assistants/analysts are made public the doubt will remain that politicians are up to their old tricks.
That our politics has the stench of corruption attached to it is well known and this story can only add to that stench. Transparency was trumpeted by Cameron and Clegg in their programme for government - sadly, as has been shown, this has been but another false promise. I note, incidentally, that Channel 4 intend to air a remake of 'A Very British Coup' with the twist that the series will pose the question what if the public voted in a prime minister who was committed to always telling the truth and sticking to his pledges. So, yet another fiction series for the masses to watch! Needless to say had we direct democracy and referism the series would not be fiction, but faction!
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