'Everyone's on the fiddle, it's not just me': The 'black economy' has topped pounds 50bn; Dave and friends are thriving unrepentantly on it

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Indy Lifestyle Online
I'VE been a plumber for 30 years. I'm not a cowboy - I know what I'm doing. I was an apprentice for two years, worked for different people, then started up on my own in 1978. I can fix anything, or say if it's not fixable - I believe in being honest.

I've always done jobs on the side ever since I started out. Everyone does, even if it's just changing a washer for your mum or fixing your granny's leaky cistern. Black economy is a pretty strong way of putting it. You always do jobs for your friends, help them out, and they slip you the money for materials plus a bit on top, or buy you a drink. Then it goes out to friends of friends, friends of friends of friends and so on.

How it works now is this. I've got a mate who's a plasterer, another who's an electrician, and another who's a painter and decorator - though we all do a bit of that if the chance comes up. We all push work towards each other. Say if I'm round plumbing in a dishwasher in a kitchen that's being fitted out, I'll say 'Oh, my mate could do that painting for you' or 'My mate could do your electrics' - we often end up working together.

People tell their friends about us. There has to be that personal connection so we can trust people to pay up, cash in hand. I mean proper cash, money, notes - not a cheque or credit card or anything, nothing that goes anywhere near a bank.

Anyone who comes to me from my ad in the Yellow Pages or who just rings up out of the blue, goes through the books and gets a nice invoice. People who come through contacts don't. A lot of my business is, shall we say, word of mouth.

It's bloody hard work - harder than what you'd call an honest nine to five. You work late, you give up your bank holidays, evenings, weekends, if you want to make a decent living.

You can call it the black economy if you want. I don't see it that way. I've got a wife, three kids, two grandkids living with us, it's hard enough to keep them without sending a cut to the taxman.

Who am I cheating? No- one. The taxman, what's he ever done for me? I pay enough on the jobs I declare. I pay the rates, the tax on the car, all that stuff. My kids have never had free school meals or anything. Because I do this and make that extra cut I can pay my way.

People who do pay up their taxes - well, my heart bleeds. Everyone's on the fiddle somehow, it's not just me. I'm just out to make a bit extra to keep the car running and go on holiday. What about MPs with their multiple share buying? Businessmen are all fraudsters.

I'm an honest worker, this way I charge fairly, everyone's happy. If I go somewhere and find a woman on her own with four screaming kids and a broken down washing machine, I'll fix it for a tenner. If you call out a service man he wants pounds 30 just to come in the door] I'm not like Del Boy, I'm not a cheat. We are all skilled, good workers. We don't have anything to do with ripping people off.

My wife used to go out cleaning. She doesn't need to any more. She pays her own cleaner - cash in hand. We keep the money going round.

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