It’s very fashionable to moan about how governments waste money. In this case, as in most cases, it’s not the government, but the administrative implementers of policy.

For various health reasons I am in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance. ESA is the responsibility of the Department of Work and Pensions, which is headed by the odious Iain Duncan Smith. My local Jobcentre Plus (who dreamed that horrid name up?) administers this, and is based in Braintree. However, for reasons I can’t easily identify, the payment comes from the Basildon Benefits Centre. Madness. Even more bizarrely, the Basildon Benefits Centre isn’t in Basildon. It’s in Chelmsford. Work that out if you can, because I can’t. That means that no fewer than three offices are working together (or not, as occasionally happens) to make sure I receive the paltry sum I’m entitled to. That makes no sense to me. Does it to you? Am I being obtuse here? A bit hard of thinking?.

Let’s continue, shall we? I also receive Disability Living Allowance. This is also one of the functions of the DWP, but clearly the ESA and DLA people occupy separate warring fiefdoms and only talk to each other under a flag of truce, if then. Here’s the thing. Both send correspondence in manilla envelopes, more colloquially known as ‘Those f****** brown envelopes’ that usually meant the taxman is on your case. It’s brown, it’s official. The reasoning is simple. Manilla envelopes are cheaper than white. Fine and dandy. But the knotheads in two separate divisions of the same Department use different sizes. The folks at the DLA end of the operation use DL envelopes. This means a standard A4 letter is folded twice. Meanwhile the good people who do the ESA thing use C5 envelopes, which require the letter to be folded once…. Since I very much doubt they have trained elves to fold letters in either of the divisions, that requires not only different sized envelopes but two different machines to do the folding. That way lies madness.

It may not seem a big deal, but think about the number of letters these people send out. If they both used the same sizes, think of the potential savings. As it happens, they’re attempting to combine the various different benefits into one Universal Benefit, and in typical government fashion have made such a hash of things that there are huge budget overruns, and only about 80,000 recipients have been enrolled into the new system. I bet they still use different sized envelopes.