Billed as his ‘big speech’ it was remarkable for what Shadow Chancellor Balls did not say. Although he emphasised just how ‘ruthless’ he would be as Chancellor, he failed to tackle the legacy of his years in government. A legacy of duplicity, deception, off-the-books accounting and enhanced tax avoidance. Not to mention launching attack dogs on his own colleagues. For every Tory wheeze, the BallsBrown combo had at least ten of their own.
Private Eye has put Balls’ contribution to our current malaise in context.
Balls was part of the team at the Treasury who scrapped corporation tax on company dividends and introduced the ‘lighter touch’ approach to tax administration and financial regulation. We know only too well how that worked out.
What did ‘Ruthless’ Balls have to say about this catastrophic period? Nothing.
“The Brown crew’s neglect of the tax system extended beyond corporate tax to super-rich individuals too, as the ‘non-domiciled’ tax break that allows some of the wealthiest to escape tax on offshore income was extended, despite promises to end it, and as private equity bosses were given tax rates famously lower than their cleaners” P.Eye No. 1341
What did ‘Ruthless’ Balls have to say about this unfairness? Nothing.
“One particular, and so far under-reported, series of tax scandals stands out as a monument to team Brown, however, the sale of Britain’s public assets to tax havens in the service of tax avoidance.
The first big one was the sale of the country’s tax offices to Bermudan company Mapeley Steps Ltd (Eyes passim ad nauseam). This was swiftly followed by an exodus under what is now just another tax avoider’s plaything: the private finance initiative. No sooner had these suspect contracts been signed than they began to be traded, with explicit official encouragement, and the most enticing places to sell them to were offshore havens.” ibid
PFI: or pay for two, get one (hospital, school etc); off balance-sheet, the ‘unacceptable face of capitalism’ (Public Accounts Committee). “More than 200 of Britain’s state schools are at least partly owned offshore.” ibid
What did ‘Ruthless’ Balls have to say about PFI’s? Nothing.
“Thus it was the owners of some serious British public infrastructure have for years been earning income from them tax-free offshore. The Home Office, would you believe, is owned by a company that pays interest to its parent company HSBC Infrastructure Ltd, in Guernsey. Both the Ministry of Defence headquarters and the Treasury buildings are a quarter-owned from the Channel Islands under similarly tax-driven arrangements. None of the contracts concerned has paid tax even though, under Treasury rules, they were signed off as value for money on the basis they would.” ibid
What did ‘Ruthless’ Balls have to say about this fiasco? Nothing.
What did ‘Ruthless’ Balls have to say about:
- billions in evaded/avoided tax
- rent controls
- zero hours contracts
- cost of Iraq misadventure
- cost of Afghanistan
“Mr Balls admitted that he had more work to do to win back trust over the public finances.”