Tony Blair's flagship New Deal scheme has managed to find real jobs for less than 3 percent of the young people forced to take part in it. That is the damning conclusion of a report by the parliamentary financial watchdog, the National Audit Commission, published last week.
The report concluded that the £3 billion scheme only found jobs that would not have been created otherwise for 20,000 of the 700,000 who took part in it. And it added, 'Many of these young people would have found work anyway without the help of the programme.'
The New Deal is compulsory for all 18-24 year olds who have claimed Jobseeker's Allowance for more than six months. People are forced to either take a subsidised job, go into full time education or training, or join an environmental taskforce. But few of the jobs turn out to be permanent and the vast majority are jobs that would have been available anyway.
The Audit Office also found that the scheme helps keep wages for all workers low, because the few extra jobs it has created are overwhelmingly low paid. Now the government is planning to extend the scheme to lone parents, the disabled and the over-50s.
Enron down under
A GIANT company suddenly crashes under a mountain of previously concealed losses. Its books, despite having being audited by one of the world's top accounting firms, turn out to be full of holes.
No, not Enron, but a very similar tale a few months ago from Australia. Like Enron, Australia's HIH Insurance had its books audited by Arthur Andersen. HIH was Australia's biggest ever business collapse, and is still being investigated.
How much is your local councillor worth? New Labour councillors in Ashfield are set to award themselves a staggering 500 percent increase in allowances. The council leader's allowance is going up by £12,000 a year, and the deputy leader's by £10,500.
While the New Labour council fat cats discuss which cuts to make, the council's workers will be hoping to get a few percent pay rise.
Thanks to readers in Ashfield.
Wolf in sheep's clothing
THE UNITED Nations is sponsoring a Conference on Financing for Development in Mexico this month. It has been packaged as heralding a new international financial structure, quite different to the old style International Monetary Fund 'structural adjustment plans'.
Call us sceptical, but when we hear that the official United Nations special envoy to the conference is Michel Camdessus we doubt it. Camdessus recently retired from another job-managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
Through the 1990s he was the chief figure in imposing the savage austerity of structural adjustment plans across the world.
A COP whose job was to book people arrested for drunk driving was himself jailed last week, after being caught driving four times over the limit. Policeman John Glover worked in the custody suite at Wakefield police station and regularly processed people nicked for driving over the limit.
Last week it wasn't someone brought into Glover's 'suite' who couldn't walk straight and stank of booze. It was the cop.
The pope and his Nazi saint
THE POPE is to make the fascist founder of a secretive fundamentalist religious organisation a saint. The pope is a great fan of Josemaria Escriva and has long championed his organisation, Opus Dei.
Escriva founded his secretive and militaristic order in 1928. He was a leading supporter of Franco's fascist regime in Spain from the 1930s onwards. Wladimir Feltzmann, a former Opus Dei member, says that Escriva was keen on the Nazis.
He used to say that Hitler and Franco had saved Christianity. Opus Dei has 80,000 members, many in key business and financial positions.
REMEMBER the right wing media hero Brynle Williams? He was the self proclaimed 'man of the people' who played a key role in the fuel blockades 18 months ago. The Welsh farmer is going into politics.
He is to be a Tory candidate in the elections for the Welsh Assembly next year.
Do you want to know a secret?
THERE WERE red faces in the White House after all the tight security around the Winter Olympics was let down by two secret service agents. They popped into a shop in Salt Lake City to buy souvenir hats.
They left with the hats-but left behind documents which spelled out in tiny detail the security arrangements for the visit of US vice-president Dick Cheney. The file contained detailed listings of the positions and changeover times of snipers and other security personnel as well as minute by minute details of Cheney's position throughout the day.
The store owner handed the file in and asked for a signed photo of Cheney as a gesture of thanks-but was refused.
Things they say
'PEOPLE IN the US don't understand that Israel gives no democratic rights to the Palestinians. They don't see it's not a democracy.'
Former CIA operative ROBERT BAER, who opposes an attack on Iraq
'I WOULD rather drive a taxi than serve in the CIA. The people who work in it just don't match up to the people who got to Silicon Valley, or the people who make Cruise missiles or design derivatives.'
'ARMED UNITS of the Northern Alliance, local commanders and rogue individuals were responsible for political killing, abduction, kidnapping for ransom, torture, rape, arbitrary detention and looting.'
US STATE DEPARTMENT on the US's Afghan allies in its annual report on human rights for 2001
'WE'RE all fucked. I'm fucked, you're fucked, the whole department's fucked.'
SIR RICHARD MOTTRAM, top civil servant at the Department of Transport, on the Stephen Byers crisis
'DO YOU still throw spears at one another?'
PRINCE PHILIP making one of his usual racist comments on meeting Aborigines in Australia last week
'TONE'S GOT guts. He's prepared to put forward policies so right wing Thatcher and John Major wouldn't have dared offer them.'
Right wing film director MICHAEL WINNER on Tony Blair
'I THINK there are health risks attached to smoking. I am not a smoker. I advise my children not to smoke.'
MARTIN BROUGHTON, head of the multinational company British American Tobacco