This obviously very inspiring personality to the left here is Lord Bichard. He is a genuine, fully paid-up Sir Humphrey - a career mandarin. Bichard was a permanent secretary in Whitehall, until his retirement at the age of 53 in 2001. His entire career has been spent in local Government and Whitehall as a civil servant, and then among the fat-cat quangoistas. He is one of the lucky recipients of a scam whereby circa 16,000 of his ilk had their pension entitlement doubled….but nobody was told, and thus there is no budget to fund it. Lord Bichard’s index-linked pension is in excess of £120,000 per annum. Last night, this man told the BBC that retired people should be encouraged to do community work….or face losing some of their pension.
While the official government estimate of public sector pension liabilities is £530 billion, an estimate using more realistic assumptions than the government would be £1,025 billion. This sum is over 80 per cent of GDP and over twice the size of the official national debt. These commitments must be honoured by government, and thus pension liabilities should be regarded in the same way as the official national debt. What’s more, each year the Government makes £41 billion of new pension commitments. These are funded by you and me at twice the rate required for employers in the private sector.
The figures for Mandarin pension liabilities (about which I’ve blogged endlessly – see link above from 2010) are deliberately understated, because by ‘government’ in this case, what we mean is Sir Humphreys . There are really only five lumps of income, spend, and liability that matter when it comes to sorting out Britain’s problems: our trade balance, civil service waste & overmanning, the welfare system, 2008 bank bailouts, and public sector pensions applied to local government and Whitehall civil servants.
Now along comes Lord Bichard with this to say from the comfort of his State-feathered nest:
“Imaginative ideas are needed to meet the cost of an ageing society. It is quite possible, for example, to envisage a world where civil society is making a greater contribution to the care of the very old, and older people who are not very old could be making a useful contribution to civil society in that respect, if they were given some incentive or some recognition for doing so. We are now prepared to say to people who are not looking for work, if you don’t look for work you don’t get benefits, so if you are old and you are not contributing in some way or another maybe there is some penalty attached to that. Are we using all of the incentives at our disposal to encourage older people not just to be a negative burden on the state but actually be a positive part of society?”
I have myself encountered young people (and comment threaders at The Slog) who would support this hypocritical and muddled view of the retired. And like some kind of robotically covetous leveller, Bichard goes on to point out that “the transfer of wealth in this country from the young to the old is one of the highest in Europe”.
Bichard’s ‘imaginative ideas’ represent some of the worst apples=pears analyses I’ve encountered in a long time.
For starters, wealth is primarily concerned with assets, not income. Old people have had sixty years to build them up, young people ten. And it isn’t a transfer of wealth at all: it’s a simple reflection of the 1946-48 baby boom coming through to retirement.
No Lord Bichard, the stats say it all: the real transfer of wealth in this country has been from the middle class wealth producers to the elite: from the Squeezed Middle to the bankers and senior civil servants who between them (a) account for 64% of all Britain’s national debt liabilities and (b) have screwed up everything they were given to do.
Next, look at his Birtesque comparison of people without work (thanks largely to government overspends, bank losses, a daft economic balance and neocon drivel) with the retired. Here I am aged 64 – declaring an interest – with a 100% self-funded private pension. In the last twelve years I have seen this drawn-down, market-exposed pot and a small capital sum saved over the years (1) reduce by 60% thanks to QE (2) lose 90% of its income thanks to Zirp (3) have the drawn-down income capped by the DSS and (4) offer the lowest annuity rates in living memory.
Most older people have paid taxes all their lives on income, taxes on their pension savings, and now pay taxes on their pension income. I become entitled to the State pension next February – and that too will be taxed at the rate applicable when one adds my private pension.
Lord Bichard is 100% cushioned from the four factors squeezing me, and millions like me. But he can’t resist poking a fat functionary’s head over the parapet to tell the peasants it’s time to work harder…otherwise we might have to throw you on the fire.
And let’s face it, his noble Peerness has had a rollercoaster of a life with some stunning judgements to his name.
While serving as the ghastly David Blunkett’s PermSec, for example, he at one point intervened personally to ensure that details of an affair that Blunkett was conducting with his Private Secretary should not become public. Nothing like a bit of open Government, eh?
He has consistently voted in the Lords for greater EU integration.
In 1990, he was appointed CEO of the Benefits Agency with a brief to ‘deliver an active modern social security service, which encourages and enables independence and aims to pay the right money at the right time’. It didn’t do any of these things, and in 2001 it was folded into the Job Centres.
From 1995 to 2001 he ran the merged Education & Employment departments, presiding over an appalling record of dumbed-down standards and risible employee training – plus, of course, a spurt in the numbers of pinstripes he employed. On his watch, the Learning & Skills Council quango was born and, sadly, allowed to live. It was thrown on the 2011 bonfire, and all its functions transferred to local government – along with all the pen-pushers who worked there.
After his retirement on full pension aged 53 in September 2001, Bichard was appointed Chairman of The Design Council. Another nice little Quango-stipend, but why? Apart from designing things that didn’t work, WTF has he ever had to do with Design in this country?
In his spare time, he carried on ensuring that the interests and emoluments of his Class would be protected: he remained a vice-President of the Local Government Association, and a Director of the Institute of Government. (This latter is basically a manual for senior Mandarins wishing to learn how to more fully manipulate their Ministers, and hide things from the public.)
A man who, all his life – from age five into free education and thence on to University with a free grant and then 30 years in the Useless Brigade with a free pension followed by quango-troughing – had everything at the expense of the taxpayer, now wants to tell the rest of us that we get far too many freebies, and nothing is for nothing any more. “Just be sure to close the gate after me” and all that.
There is, when you think about it, an obvious reason why the Lord Bichards and Bob Diamonds of this world are responsible for two-thirds of the debt liability run up by Britain since 1990: they share exactly the same brand of arrogant insouciance, within which it’s not just important that they come first: everyone else must come equal last.
One could fit a brass neck on a rampaging rhinoceros, and get more sensitivity than these people emit. For myself, I think Lord Bichard should take some of his own medicine. And the social contribution I recommend for this very lucky, unproductive man is for him to retrain as a plumber (thanks to his education ideas, you can never find one anyway) and then use his new skills to go to the homes of struggling pensioners….there to stick his head down the lavatory, while the occupant flushes the chain.