Every Penny Counts – Wasting of taxpayers money in small ways.

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The subject today is “every penny counts” and describes one small way that arose recently where it was obvious that taxpayers money, i.e. yours and mine, is being wasted.

The story starts on Monday the 10th of January 2010. I received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) dated the 29th December 2009 saying that it was time to claim my State Pension. I am not due to receive this pension until late April 2010 and so was pleased that the bureaucratic system seemed to be working to help me in plenty of time.

The letter said quite clearly: “Claim your State Pension” and gave a phone number (0845 30 01 084) that I should phone going on to say “You can claim your state pension now…”

Having gathered together the information required, I duly telephoned the number given only to to hear that:

a) the number had changed, it is now 0800 731 7898 and

b) that there was “no need” to claim my state pension now, it seemed that I could wait until 2 months before hand, i.e. late February if I wished. However, I decided to proceed as I was fully prepared.

I dialled the new number and received the same recorded message to the effect that there was “no need” to claim yet but I persevered because I wanted to get it finished having spent some time already.

To cut a very long conversation very short, I was told that I could not claim my state pension at this time and I had to wait until 2 months before the due date to claim.

My questions for the bureaucracy are:

1) Why send a letter that gives the wrong number to call? It would be a trivial act to change it to the correct number.
2) Why send a letter nearly 4 months early when you cannot claim until 2 months before? Surely it would be better to send it out 2 months before the claim date?
3) Why is it that the recorded message is phrased in bureaucratspeak? The phrase “you no longer need…” implies that one could make a claim now if one wanted – in fact you cannot, you have to wait.

As I see it this is a typical example of how small wastes of money can add up to very large sums. Given that the population of the UK is around 60 million, there are probably nearly a million of these letters going out each year. Each letter probably costs around £1, not that this money could be saved but it could certainly be deferred for 2 months. The next waste is the money paid by us for the wasted phone calls. 0845 numbers are not free, cheap maybe unless you are calling from a mobile, but not free. OUR money being wasted because no-one can be bothered to do their job properly.

More money is wasted by the government itself as they have to pay for the (maybe 1 million) phone calls to the 0800 number. My guess is that the wasted cost to the government is around £50,000 just for the 0800 calls that will have to be repeated at a later date.

For the cost of maybe 1 days work by a civil servant (who is probably paid less than £50,000 a YEAR) this money could be saved.

In todays straightened time, every penny counts – how many other wastes do you know about?