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Richard Littlejohn On Motability

October 11, 2011

Yuck. Just yuck.

Car dealers are like farmers. Always moaning. Think Arthur Daley. Ask them about business and you’ll get a hard luck story. Sharp intake of breath, sorrowful shake of the head, cue violins.

Last time I spoke to my local BMW dealer he painted an unvarnished picture of economic woe.

Never known it so bad. Bottom’s fallen right out of the market. Fleet sales through the floor, private buyers AWOL.

 Even those with money to burn are keeping it in their pockets. This isn’t the time for an ostentatious show of wealth, not when so many people are being forced to tighten their belts.

Company directors who used to change their  7 Series as often as they changed the oil are now hanging on to them for three or four years. You can’t lay off half the workforce and then treat yourself to a brand new limo. I’m telling you, Rich, this game’s finished.

Spare me the sob story. I’ve heard it all before. Hard-up car dealers are about as common as skint bookies.

No, this time it’s really serious, he said, what with the astronomical cost of petrol and insurance, sky-high company car taxes and punitive ‘green’ duties on so-called ‘gas guzzlers’ higher up the range. I’ve even had to give the sales director the old heave-ho. To be honest, it’s only the Government keeping us going.

The Government? Surely they haven’t nationalised the BMW network while I wasn’t looking?

 No, I’m talking about the Motability scheme. Real life-saver that’s been.

Motability? I thought that was something to do with invalid carriages, cheap cars for the disabled, that sort of thing. Those little blue three-wheelers, like Del Boy’s van. Gearsticks on the steering column, hand-operated accelerators, ramps for wheelchairs. Where does BMW come into it? They haven’t made bubble cars since the Sixties.

Keep up, Rich. This is the 21st century. Motability runs to proper cars these days.

What, even BMWs?

Especially BMWs, he said. Most of the 1 Series we knock out these days go to a Motability customer. It’s all that’s keeping us solvent right now.

This conversation came back to haunt me when I read in the Mail on Sunday that the Motability scheme now costs British taxpayers a staggering £1.5 billion a year.

 The number of people given a free car on the taxpayer has risen by 200,000 to 575,000 over the past decade. Another 1.3 million are entitled to one, according to the Motability website. Surely there can’t be that many more disabled people than there were ten years ago? If the figure’s right, though, the streets of Britain would look like the sick bay at Downton Abbey.

Depends what you mean by ‘disabled’. The definition of disability was stretched to breaking point under Labour, which is how we ended up with more than two-and-a-half million people claiming incapacity benefit.
Even naughty schoolboys diagnosed with the make-believe disease ‘Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder’ (ADHD) are classified as disabled.

The total now said to be suffering from ADHD-related conditions stands at 99,000 — up from just 800 a decade ago.

And, as a result, their parents are entitled to a car under the Motability Scheme. More than 3,000 families with children allegedly suffering from ADHD are swanning around in a new vehicle courtesy of the British taxpayer, no questions asked.

Just fill in a simple form and it’s: ’Ello, John, got a new motor?

Motability is now the biggest fleet management operation in Britain. Its chief executive pulls in £1.17 million a year. All this from a scheme launched in 1978 to help the genuinely disabled get about.

When it started, a modified Mini Clubman Estate was as exotic as it got. Today, the basic range runs to a Vauxhall Astra or a Ford Focus, with the £205-a-month lease fee paid by the Department of Work and Pensions.

But those who are prepared to make a modest top-up payment can get the keys to a luxury, executive model. More than 11,000 cars part-funded by taxpayers are BMWs and Mercedes.

And it’s not just the 1 Series, which is keeping my local dealership afloat, either.

The Motability website advertises the £35,000 BMW X3 — ‘a striking balance between comfort and agility’ — and the new Audi A6, which is ‘refined and has a luxurious, spacious interior’.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith was horrified when he uncovered the scale of the abuse of the system.

The Motability racket is just the tip of the iceberg. Under Labour, the welfare monster grew like Topsy, along with the tax bills needed to feed it. Gordon Brown’s generosity with other people’s money knew no bounds.

Millions of able-bodied people were paid to sit around on their backsides while their jobs went to willing, cheaper foreign workers.

New ‘illnesses’ were invented to justify their idleness. Anyone who challenged the lavish, unlimited generosity of the welfare state was smeared as ‘heartless’ or ‘selfish’.

The Motability scheme started with the best of intentions.

My old neighbour, who was crippled by polio as a child, drove a modified Daf 33, with Variomatic transmission. No one would begrudge the much-needed mobility, dignity and independence it brought to her life.

But Motability was never designed to supply free BMWs to the perfectly-fit families of little boys who can’t sit still in class.

Nor did anyone imagine that it would one day be overseen by a chief executive on a superstar, seven-figure salary.

If Arthur Daley was around today, he wouldn’t bother with a second-hand car lot on a bomb site in Acton, he’d be a fully-fledged and minted Motability franchisee.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 11, 2011 11:41 am

    Wow what a small-minded, backward and anachronistic attitude. Mr Littlemind might want to check his facts a bit more carefully too before spouting such derisive garbage.

    The Motability scheme is not funded by the British taxpayer. It is operated by a charity which raises its own funds through various events throughout the year and which was formed by a group of banks. The charity works very hard to fund and promote the scheme.

    He seems to take issue with the fact that disabled people are allowed to lease brand new BMWs, Audis and Mercedes. Welcome to the 21st century Mr Littlemind, we no longer live in 1938 when the best a disabled person could hope for (if they were allowed out of their home that is…) was a 147cc tricycle which was open to the elements. Maybe nowadays even disabled people want to be able to drive a regular car or something a bit more upmarket if they can afford to.

    Which brings us to another point. He makes comment about the advance payment for executive and luxury cars being “modest”. Maybe to him, but to the majority of disabled people out there the advance payments on all but the most basic cars are astronomical and most of us would not be able to afford them, hence why the majority of Motability customers have small, basic cars that permit them to live as independently as possible, go to work, lead a family life etc.

    And finally he talks about disabled people being given “free cars”. This is the most basic mistake everyone makes when they know nothing about Motability. We do not have free cars. Even those with basic cars who haven’t had to pay an advance do not get free cars. We pay around £200 per month for our cars via Disabled Living Allowance. DLA is, if we manage to complete the huge claim forms and jump through the hoops set by Government, a benefit disabled people are entitled to to help them cope with the additional costs of being disabled – such as being able to get around. How a disabled person uses his or her DLA is entirely their choice and some do make the decision to exchange it for a car on the Motability scheme to enable them to get around. This depends on their personal circumstances though, some decide to get a powerchair or scooter through the scheme for example.

    DLA is the only bit of the “taxpayers money” that goes into the scheme and as mentioned above is incredibly hard to be awarded and is a basic entitlement.

    Or does Mr Littlemind still hold onto the belief that disabled people should be locked away indoors weaving baskets for eternity rather than being allowed out to live normal, useful lives?

  2. samedifference1 permalink*
    October 11, 2011 12:51 pm

    Thanks for your very useful comments Dan- as you’ll soon see they will form part of a complaint to PCC by me about Littlejohn’s scribbles.

  3. October 11, 2011 4:19 pm

    I’ve just emailed BMW to enquire as to the number of cars issued over last 5 years under Motability and BMW’s percentage of the Scheme.

    What struck me about Littlejohn’s claims is that they’re not new; I read an identical rant a number of months back. Does this mean Littlejohn has the same sourcce as the other lying, disablist journalist, has engaged in plagarism or is there a planned anti-Motability Scheme propaganda campaign run by Conservative Central Office?

    New Labour were very successful at using the mass media for “black propaganda” (sic) under David Freud to undermine IB – why shouldn’t the now Lord Fraud help Maria Miller to break all ties with Motability in order to build a medicalised straight-jacketed called PIP?

    At a time when middle England is feeling the pinch, what better way is there to stir resentment and hatred than to claim fake cripples have free BMW at the taxpayers’ expense. It should also be noted that the article claims the forms are too easy and open to wholesale abuse and that New Labour has created a too wide definition of disability – both of these claims are hearsay; where is the empirical evidence, Littlejohn?

    This Government, like the last, is scapegoating disabled people in order to dismantle the Welfare State and to kick start the free market economy in health and social services.

  4. Gordon permalink
    October 26, 2011 10:47 pm

    One of the reasons I refuse to buy a paper. Journalists like Littlejohn and the now defunct News of the World. Dressed up inaccuracies to sell a story.

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