For the best part of 60 years, he was just plain David Freud, a jobbing hack. You probably never noticed him. Then the Labour government took an interest in him, and he became Sir David Freud – in charge of reforming their welfare plans. His old friends on the Western Mail may not have even realised heÂ was the same person.
No sooner knighted than he apparently felt that a differentÂ government would be more likely to implement his plans. He switched sides, and a grateful Conservative government turned him into Lord Freud.
Labour were so angry that when he spoke at a fringe party meeting and said that ‘there was a small group of disabled people who were not worth the full wage’ – a statement of the obvious when you consider that some of those receiving disability payments may not even beÂ sentient – Labour spin claimed that he had said that ‘the disabled were not worth a full wage’ and demanded his resignation.
Cameron stood by him, and he becameÂ (*quick check on this morning’s activities*) Minister of State at the DWP, in charge of enhancing the Universal Credit scheme.
Without Freud, Gordon Brown’s laborious tax credit scheme might never have been ‘unpicked’. Â Freud was told that it would take 8 years to build the computer that could handle payments to 20 million people and speak simultaneously to both HMRC and Employers – he introduced the government to VocalLink, a company who had already developed the payment system required, and it worked.
Now that I have breathing space to catch up on my reading, I discover that whilst we have all been consumed by the high wire antics of the more colourful and egotistical politicians, David Freud was quietly rolling out a revolution.
It appears under the innocuous name of ‘distributed ledger technology’ – I’d never heard of it either. To put in it crude terms, it is Bitcoin by another name. It is designed by GovCoin Systems. I would have preferred ‘TaxpayerCoin Systems’ as a name myself.
From the 4th JuneÂ 2016, some Benefits claimants in the North West wereÂ receiving their benefit via an app on their smart phone. They will be able to spend it with selected retailers. At the moment that is limited; Barclays Bank, npower, and a German utility company – RWE. Obviously the inclusion of Barclays broadens the opportunity to spend your money – but this is only a very small trial, to see if the system does work.Â
If it does work, and is rolled out nationwide, it could herald a revolution in more ways than one. The usual suspects are out and about screaming about the possible risk of claimant’s data being lost or misused. The government claim that they are only using the data that is returned from the spending pattern to ‘help clients with their budgeting’….
That may be their intention, but it will inevitably raise a wider question.
When the government discover, and this is purely hypothetical you understand, that 60% of the welfare budget is ultimately being re-routed to the coffers of Messrs Irn Bru and Co., or that in WalesÂ 98% of child benefit was paid out to on-line pornographers – there will be Hell to pay.
Perfect ammunitionÂ not to increase benefits…
There will be a wail of protest from benefit claimants that how they spend their money is their business – but is it? Â It is ‘everybody’s’ money.
Ms Raccoon has been spending most of her disability payment on swimming lessons – an oxymoron? Why should the rest of you contribute to my desire to turn into a performing seal? On the other hand it’s keeping me healthy and out of the hands of expensive Doctors.
So, how would you feel about hypothetically learning that 60% of Irn Bru’s turnover was coming from your taxes? Or that Sky would be bankrupt were it not for the ‘GovCoins’ flooding into their coffers. And why? What about the impact of near 10% of the government’s spending bypassing the banking system?
Is Freud treading in dangerous waters here?
*Phew* Still seems to be in the job – press ‘Publish’ quick…..