Should £1 bn of unclaimed pensions, shares and insurance policies be used to alleviate austerity?
Just before Christmas the government that promised a " bonfire of the quangos"set up a new one.
It is called the Dormant Assets Commission and it is unusual in that every member of the quango is a wealthy business person,
Not surprisingly there was little coverage of this body. But the government itself provided a lot of information about what it would do and who was sitting on it. I have written about it in last week's Tribunemagazine.
It has been given a year to scour the financial markets to find unclaimed stocks and shares, pensions, bonds and insurance policies which have not been claimed for more than 15 years.
The quango, set up by the Cabinet Office, follows on the work of identifying dormant bank accounts which led to £850m being distributed to good causes by the Big Lottery Fund since it was set up by the last Labour government in 2008.
The decision on who will get the new money however will depend on Cabinet Office ministers who are making it clear that it is likely to go to charities which are replacing services provided by local government and the state.
Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson said:
“More than a billion pounds of assets, that might otherwise sit gathering dust, will go into funding for charities that make a real difference to people’s lives across the country.
“To build an even more caring and compassionate country we need to transform dormant resources and give the funds to those who need it.”
The commission is entirely staffed by business people – many global players – under the chairmanship of Nick O’Donohoe, chief executive officer of Big Society Capital until the end of last year and a former head of global research for bankers J P Morgan.
The business people aiding him are Richard Collier-Keywood, PwC Global vice-chairman; Kirsty Cooper, group general counsel and company secretary, Aviva plc;Gurpreet Dehal, former chief operating officer Global Prime Services, Credit Suisse;Rachel Hanger, partner, KPMG; Jackie Hunt, non-executive director, CityUK and member of the Financial Conduct Authority Practitioner Panel; Mark Makepeace, group director of information services, London Stock Exchange Group and chief executive of FTSE Group; Susan Sternglass Noble, senior advisor to the Investor Forum; and Martin Turner, group business risk director, Lloyds Banking Group.
Richard Collier-Keywood was the head international tax expert for PriceWaterhouseCoopers advising international companies on global taxation.
Rachel Hanger from KPMG is also another international tax adviser for hedge funds providing what her biography describes as “pro tax advice” to fund managers.
Mark Makepeace is the man who co-ordinated the “big bang” deregulation at the London Stock Exchange and runs his own global index business. He is the only one of the new appointments who declares any interest in charities, having been a long-standing supporter of Unicef.
To my mind the present Conservative government is pursuing a pretty nasty policy of cutting services. But should it make up the shortfall by grabbing other people's assets and employ wealthy people skilled in tax avoidance to find them.
And how will ministers spend other people's money. Will the " sofa style " government of Tony Blair be replaced by the " dinner party " style of government by David Cameron and George Osborne distributing other people's assets to their mates favourite charities or services in Tory marginal seats? I am deeply suspicious of this venture and we are entitled to know more about it.