Isn’t it maddening to know that while an estimated 9,000 of our military veterans are living on the streets this Christmas, that British taxpayers are sending around £33 million a day abroad in foreign aid without knowing where all those vast amounts of money actually go.
Why is it that we are constantly told to tighten our belts while Theresa May’s government throws £12.2 billion a year at far away countries, in many cases without proper scrutiny?
And why is it such a bad idea to put those military veterans first, considering the service they have given this country?
Only this week a report revealed that £274m of British foreign aid has disappeared into something called the Strategic Climate Fund (SCF), a somewhat controversial climate change organisation.
So where has that money ended up? The official answer was that Department for International Development (DfID) doesn’t know.
The SCF is an organisation whose lack of transparency has seen the United States threatening to scrap funding it altogether. Yet the UK carries on sending it money, despite some of your taxes going on projects to places who are in the lowest 20 of Transparency International’s league table for suspected public sector corruption.
When the Coalition government came to power in 2010, it knew it had to make cuts. The recession was well under way and the country was on its knees financially. You may remember the then Labour Treasury Minister Liam Byrne left a note on his desk for his successor David Laws, which read: “There is no money left.” A joke, perhaps, but true nonetheless.
All departments were braced to make cuts. That was to be expected. But the then Coalition ring-fenced two budgets: health and foreign aid. And Mrs May’s new government has continued in that vein.
We can all agree that the health budget should be protected because we pay our taxes and deserve to be looked after, but foreign aid is a different matter.
The truth is, Britain is spending a larger share of its wealth on foreign aid than most.
Some countries are actually making cuts due to the continuing hard economic times. Japan, Italy and the United States have in the past slashed their foreign aid budgets to look after their own people first.
But not us – we’re still heading in the opposite direction. Britain spends 0.7% of its national income on foreign aid, one of the highest in the modern world.
So while the defence budget is being cut and our military forces are reduced in size, we will continue to hand taxpayer’s money over to other countries. While the austerity measures see some people losing their disability living allowance, the government can still afford to hand our money over to India. This is just plain wrong.
India, for example, has more millionaires and billionaires than us. It has its own space programme, its own nuclear weapons and is projected to be the largest economy on the planet by 2050. They don’t need our money – and they have said they don’t want it – but still, we give it.
There are an estimated 13 million people in Britain living below the poverty line. The number of soup kitchens and food banks has rocketed since the beginning of the recession in 2007. I once visited a food bank myself in the Midlands. It was a sobering thought to think that people in this country, one of the largest economies in the world, need help with food.
Brazil is the sixth biggest economy in the world and we still give them foreign aid. It really is that loopy.
But it makes me upset that while our own people are out of work and many are looking to food banks to feed their families, we are still giving money away.
What is worse is that some of the countries we dish our money out to are undemocratic and have suspect human rights records. At one stage foreign aid to Somalia went up by over 200% and over 100% to Nigeria.
Why do we do this? Is it because we feel some sort of post-colonial guilt? Is it because we want to look good on the world stage? Or is it because it gives a warm sense of earthly satisfaction to the upper-middle class liberals that run this country?
I believe foreign aid should be a luxury, not a necessity. Yes, when we have money left over, we should help other nations. But when we have our own young people unemployed, austerity measures, soup kitchens, food banks on the rise and increasing homelessness, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for our taxes to be spent on our own people in our own country.
Especially when they’ve put their lives on the line for the rest of us.
Paul Nuttall is Leader of Ukip and MEP for the North West of England.