The credit crunch may be biting with over 1,000 people a day joining the dole queues but in Brussels the gravy train is still rolling along. For the 14th successive year the EU Accounts have not been signed off because they are so mired in mismanagement, corruption and fraud. This year a record six billion euros is unaccounted for.
It is not clear whether this includes the £850,000 forked out to teach tango dancing (although not to John Sergeant judging by his recent TV Performances), the £10 million given to a Belgian town which spent it on eating, drinking, partying and had enough left over to fund a hunting trip to Belarus for its local councillors. The £60 million handed over to a consortium of Italian businessmen who spent most of it on cars, motorbikes, and yachts. One member, a dentist, owned a Ferrari as well as 55 other luxury cars.
However it almost certainly included the former Mayor of a Spanish town who used his £40,000 slice of the Euro budget to open a hostess club and the charitable horse riding school in Italy which collared £326,000 to train disabled pupils but when they couldn't find enough they simply forged signatures until they´d reached their target.
There were identified "irregularities" of up to five per cent in the 51 billion euros the EU pays farmers to produce, or often, not to produce food. The largest scale of fraud and mismanagement was in the 114 billion euro regional and social funds designed to raise living standards in poorer areas.
British taxpayers subsidise this annual ritual to the tune of £10 billion a year and contribute 10 per cent of all EU spending. Surely there are better ways of spending our money at the moment?