It would be difficult for me to write a blog at this time of year without referencing the Self Assessment deadline of the 31st January.
This year, around 11.5m people have to file a return and, human nature being what it is, around half of them haven’t done it yet, which gives them and my colleagues at HMRC a pretty busy and, at times, pressured end to January.
If only it were different! But one way or another, around 94 per cent of people do file and pay on time. And that leads me onto the real topic of this blog – the extraordinary things that the money we collect helps colleagues across the Civil Service to achieve.
The most obvious one at this time of year is the NHS. Winter is always a difficult time, with an ageing population and seasonal flu putting both our NHS and local community services under pressure. Remembering the vital role healthcare services play is one of the ways our tax collectors motivate themselves as they work their way towards the Self Assessment deadline. And many of us will have family or friends who will have needed and relied in those services over Christmas, as we did when my father-in-law (aged 97) needed hospital care just before Christmas.
The work DfID, the military, FCO, DH, Public Health England and the NHS have done to help contain and combat Ebola in Sierra Leone is an example of excellent coordination and delivery in extreme circumstances. Everyone, from individuals out in Freetown, to those planning the logistics should feel rightly proud of the pace and quality of the UK’s response to this crisis.
These services help keep us safe at home and help keep the world a safer place, as do the agencies that are working together to combat extremism Europe. We see less, and perhaps understand less, of their work day in and day out. But there’s no doubt that they play a great contribution to allowing us to lead our lives securely and in safety.
As we start the New Year, many of us are thinking about the difficult resource choices that we will have to make. We need to play our part in reducing costs and making sure that taxpayers’ money is used carefully and sensibly. But we should have no doubt about the importance of the services that we and our colleagues deliver – or the difference they make to people’s lives.
So if you’re one of the 5 million yet to fill in your Self-Assessment return, do it now, the money will be well spent!