Diary: And here's the bad news – stories they tried to bury on Budget day

 

A commissioned officer learnt by chance that someone working in the Ministry of Defence had discharged him from the Army when he was 3,500 miles from home, on the front line, in Afghanistan.

The officer had applied for a discharge four months before his tour of duty began. The process is supposed to take 12 months, and at the end of it, the ex-serviceman should receive help in readjusting to civilian life. But somebody decided to cut the process short, with potentially catastrophic results for the officer and his family. Whether it was a simple mistake or an attempt to cut costs is not clear.

The aggrieved officer went to the Service Complaints Commissioner (SCC), but was persuaded to withdraw the complaint on a promise that his case would be sorted out. Instead, things got worse. At the end of a 16-year military career, he was handed a final monthly pay cheque for £11. He had to wait until he had entered civilian life before the Army gave him the resettlement payment to which he was entitled, and then they got it wrong.

After the SCC had stepped in a second time, all was straightened out and the officer received a written apology, ten months after being alarmed to discover that he had been made into an ex-soldier in one of the most dangerous places on earth.

That story is dedicated to the memory of Jo Moore whose political career died 10 years ago last month. She was a political adviser who paid a heavy penalty for sending an email on 11 September 2001 saying: "It is now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury." She was neither the first nor the last to try to bury bad news on a heavy news day, but she is the one who was spectacularly caught out.

Each item in today's Diary consists of information slipped out by the government on Wednesday, Budget day. The officer's story is contained in the annual report of the Service Complaints Commissioner, Susan Atkins. In her preamble, addressed to the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, Atkins wrote: "When you took office you spoke of your commitment to rebuilding the Covenant. That is why I am disappointed that I am unable to report to you that the service complaints commission system is working efficiently, effectively or fairly" – which perhaps explains why Wednesday was considered a good day to release her report.

The public workers who help themselves

It was also disclosed that staff in the Department of Health nicked £17,000 worth of kit from their offices during 2011, including 10 laptops worth an average of £790 each, and 32 BlackBerries worth around £146 each. While in the Department for International Development, staff have relieved their employers of 17 laptops with a combined value of more than £5,000 in the past year.

Assessors continue to get it wrong

The multinational healthcare company Atos makes more than £66m a year in the UK, mostly by offering independent advice to the Department for Work and Pensions on whether individual claimants qualify for disability benefit.

Mistakes can have a traumatic impact. Answering a written question on Wednesday, the DWP minister, Chris Grayling, disclosed that the number of instances in which Jobcentre staff reckoned Atos's assessors had got it wrong rose from 900 in May 2010 to 3,100 in May 2011.

The Labour MP Tom Greatrex, who asked the question, remarked: "There is so much bad news about Atos that the Government would need a Budget every day to avoid the glare of publicity on its appalling performance."

A disturbing lack of quality care

The Care Quality Commission has published disturbing findings about an inspection at a care home for 18 to 25-year-olds with learning disabilities in Preston, Lancashire. Inspectors found there was "no evidence" anyone had assessed the residents' needs, "challenging" behaviour by inmates was not effectively dealt with, and they came away unable to say whether inmates were protected from abuse by staff.

SNP keep quiet about climbdown

Meanwhile, in Scotland, having fought so bitterly for so long against the Government's Scotland Bill, the SNP chose Wednesday to climb down. The spirit of Jo Moore lives on both sides of the border.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk