Coffee House

IDS turns up the volume on welfare cuts

28 April 2012

Iain Duncan Smith is quietly spoken. His interview with today’s
Times (£) is a case in point. The political elite are ‘distanced’ from the people, he says. The
Leveson inquiry is there to ‘clean the house’. The job of government is to govern well, not be loved. The ‘omnishambles’ will pass because David Cameron has ‘the capability
to pull himself and us all through’.

But, amid these placid notes, is a subito fortissimo. The welfare secretary sets himself against George
Osborne’s wish that a further £10 billion in welfare cuts be found by 2016. He says:

‘This is my discussion with him… My view is that it’s not [all going to come from welfare]… We’ll have a look and see what scope there is but we’re all in this together…
There is no such thing as an easy target in welfare … We have a responsibility to support people in difficulty, we can’t run away from that.’

There will be substantial savings if IDS’ out of schemes are successful. But in terms of further programme cuts, it would seem that the secretary of state believes the poorest have born their
share already. However, what of the middle classes? IDS suggests that there is some room for more savings here:

‘I don’t agree with those who say, ‘Unless the middle classes are in the welfare system we’re not all in this together’… The welfare system is there to support you in
times of need and when you get clear of it you should be clear of it … It’s rather daft to take tax off the middle classes and pay them a little bit back … That’s a very expensive
way of giving a bribe.’

IDS doesn’t provide any concrete ideas beyond urging comfortable people to return their winter fuel allowance. But his statement of intent on universality is important. This government and
this opposition have been over this contentious ground before, during the prelude to the
comprehensive spending review. The government thought discretion to be the better part of valour on that occasion: the universal welfare state persisted and attempts to reform so-called
‘middle class benefits’, like child benefit, have been shambolic. But these controversies are likely to be renewed as the government searches for deeper savings.

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Show comments
  • Jim

    It is ironic to hear this about safety net when it is the truely disabled and sick who have been made to suffer despite whatever statements are made in sympathy

  • Cynic

    daisysWhy should someone who earns £50k a year and loses their job get unemployment benefit when they have a nice house and lots of savings?” In my experience, if you have savings you don’t qualify for unemployment benefit, although if someone has been earning £50,000 per annum, they will have paid a lot of NIC towards unemployment benefit. Why shouldn’t they get some of their own money back?

  • Barbara

    This government had a opportunity to alter child benefit when it looked at it. It should have stopped child benefit after two children that would have effected top and bottom of the spectrum. It should also have stopped paying citizens from other countries, they should claim in their own countries. Then we should stop foreign aid, they have no right to committ our money to such an amount. Then stop funding the eurozone via the IMF,it’s for countries not currancies. Then we have health tourists costing the taxpayers £55 million per year and rising.
    There are lots of things this country could do to save money before they strike at their own through welfare cuts. Poverty, causes many social problems, and while governments can cut to please though’s who have plenty, those that have plenty don’t like it when the populace react violently. Poverty can fester hate and and it erupts in different ways, and political parties can come to fruitian through this poverty. What we should be doing is looking at what’s caused this. Immigration is one area, with jobs, housing, and benefit escalation it brings. Stop this and we may begin to ajust the problem, but it could take years and draconian measures. That’s why ukip is gaining strength, people see the answer lies with them, and the bringing back of control of this nation to it’s idigenous people’s.

  • Dennis Churchill

    April 28th, 2012 6:45pm
    Yes, supply and demand applies in housing like everything else but the point I’m making is that the supposed massive profits being made by landlords is not as big a factor as we are led to believe
    If you check this:
    It shows the return against investment in various parts of the country.
    If we allow the myth of vast profits to influence policy it will result in more regulation which will result in higher rents!

  • Trapped

    @ Dennis Churchill

    Rents will not drop. Period. We have insufficient housing in most of the country and excessive immigration. Where I live we’ve had polish families taking up 2 bed flats and cramming four people in. The rent will be what the market can bear, and currently the only direction that’s going is up.

  • Dennis Churchill

    daniel maris
    April 28th, 2012 1:50pm
    Are you suggesting the present system of taking taxes from above average income earners to pay it back to them(less the admin costs) in state benefits makes sense?
    If you consider the NHS; it was founded at a time when we were a homogenous society and penicillin was the cutting edge of treatment. We are now a diverse society and with the latest edict from the EU that NHS treatment must be available to all EU citizens, regardless of whether they are employed in the UK, going to become even more diverse in our hospitals. Treatments advance daily as do their costs.
    The Irish system gives state funded free medical care to citizens that qualify due to low income by issuing them with a special card. Others pay either at the point of treatment or through insurance. That is the inevitable future for health care in the UK unless we are prepared to pay higher and higher taxes to fund a poor standard of care.

  • Dennis Churchill

    Thomas Paine
    April 28th, 2012 12:53pm
    We need to deal with the reality of the housing market rather than the myths.
    The average return on rental property in London, when I last looked, was under 6%.Local housing allowance is paid to tenants and passed (or not) to landlords.
    High rents are the result of the regularity framework and court delays in gaining possession if the tenant defaults. Add to these insurance, repairs etc, all of which are naturally factored into rents ,and you go some way to explaining rent levels.
    Pay “housing benefit” direct to landlords and have special courts deal with disputes and rents will drop as market forces come into play. Increase regulations and rents will go up.

  • Paul Danon

    What, please, are “IDS’ out of schemes”?

  • ButcombeMan

    IDS utterly messed up over Iraq. Taken in by pals in the US probably and insufficiently sceptical.

    Credit to him though, he seems to have “done a Profumo” and is one of the few valuable members of the Cabinet. He was pretty good on Any Questions last night.

  • DZ

    This landed in my in-box an hour ago:

    Seaford Town Council election.
    UKIP 428: 34.5% Alan Latham
    Conservative 365: 29.4%
    Lib Dems 344: 27.7%
    Labour 105: 8.5%

    Turn out 32.2%

  • justathought

    IDS has achieved a lot but the elephant in the room is the persistently high immigration of 500,000, 50% of whom are non-EU immigrants.

    Nigel Ferage was right when he said on Question Time that other politicians are frightened to discuss legal immigration from the EU and the economic impact. I expect UKIP will do well in the coming elections.

  • Louisa

    Well said David Smart.

  • Peter From Maidstone

    People on benefits should not be allowed to have additional children that taxpayers will have to pay for. There are long term contraceptives that should be compulsory. If a woman wants a baby she should have the means to support it by working herself or being married.

    I have seen hundreds of children come through social services who are the offspring of those who continue to have children while already being identified as being unable to care for the ones they already have.

    This is no eugenics, since it has nothing to do with genes. Any one can have children if they are able to support them. A very large proportion of the tax burden is spent on those who have no intention of supporting their own children, and will have more because it is at no cost to them.

    A unemployed single women with 5 children receives more in benefits than at least half the working population. Why would she stop having children when it is a means of increasing her income?

  • daniel maris

    Dennis Churchill is wrong. The idea of making the middle classes pay for their health treatment will just magnify the disincentives to work that already exist (we all know anyone earning under £30,000 would be mad to invest in a pension – let the state pay for your retirement).

    The key to welfare reform is to (a) create a legal requirement for adults to support themselves (b) ensure work is available for all adults not able to find it themselves and (c) remove the incentives to single parenthood among teenagers and young women.

    We might also usefully look at incentives to people to stay healthy and not use the NHS.

  • c mack

    and this is the spin doctoring that comes after to cover up their mis doings and concince people they care… i ahve to admit, its some mighty fine bull crap, that people need to see through.

  • Sean O’Hare


    Why pay a state pension to those who don’t need it?

    Because even those who do not strictly need it have already paid for it out of NI contributions over many years. If people were allowed to opt out of paying a proportion of NI that would be different.

  • David Smart

    When are the politicians going to grow up and treat us grown up adults as such.
    Cast your minds back to Brownenomics and the ludicrous idea of tax credits to people earning £58000 and other nefarious ways of giving back money to people who had already paid a great deal of it in taxes.It would be interesting to find out what percentage of working people were receiving tax credits or other types of benefit to lift them up to some arbitary amount that Brown thought they should be entitled to. If they hadn’t had to pay so much tax in the first place they wouldn’t have to have gone to so much trouble filling in forms and perhaps later filling in other forms after an appeal,nor would the vast army of Civil Servants have been needed to wade through masses of paperwork.
    When I was working in pre tax credit days I got by without any benefits except child benefit and I wasn’t earning anywhere near the amounts that now fall under the tax credit system,I simply cut my cloth according to my net income and lived within my needs,not according to my wants.
    The welfare net should be what it was designed for a stop gap payment for a temporary period between jobs.We could discuss whether today’s world is so much bleaker than the 1940’s were,but it is so different that it is more than a financial people are not independantly minded enough after 60 years of big state hegemony that they can’t imagine why it is necessary to stand on your feet and not sit idly by while the politicos meddle.
    Just cut taxes and make people who can go out to work do just that,not sitting on their bums waiting for a handout.Anybody who read yesterday’s papers would have read of the 26 year old owner of a business who couldn’t get young people to work for him.Most of them either overslept or said they were better off on benefit,one even said it was raining so he didn’t want to go in.
    Please can we have politicians who have the guts to make it plain to people that life is not easy nor should it be easy without any effort,the cost of all these projects of the Benefit Culture are crippling us all,of course nothing will be done as there is an army of Public Sector Ants all beavering away doing things to keep society impoverished so that they have a job to keep themselves occupied.

  • strapworld

    Frank P Ugenics I believe that nonsense was entitled.

  • Thomas Paine

    Housing Benefit alone is larger than the entire higher education budget, on which this country’s future is dependent.

    It doesn’t even go to poor people it goes overwhelmingly to private landlords. Slashing it (in half) in conjunction with a programme of rent controls, anti-nimby legislation and social house building (sensible investment that would drive and growth) would add billions to the Treasury’s coffers while hitting only property speculators.

    So IDS is 100% wrong that there should be no benefit cuts, though I suspect that his (well-founded) fear at least in part is that the Treasury will cut in all the wrong places.

    What’s most shocking though is the utter lack of vision in the Treasury – real policies to get housebuilding (and the economy) going again, not cheap subsidies to commercial developers who have just pocketed taxpayers’ largesse in the form of increased margins.

    These posh boys should get out of the way and have some proper Tories in place who understand how the country (as opposed to the City) really thinks.

  • Frank P

    I think that too that the poorest have ‘born’ more than their share and should perhaps breed somewhat less prolifically for a while, particularly the ‘single mothers’. But SoS was indicating that the poorest have in fact ‘borne’ their share of the cuts, in which case he may be right in some cases – but not all. Depends on what you mean by ‘the poorest’ and what yardstick is being applied.

  • daisys

    Quite right IDS. Why should someone who earns £50k a year and loses their job get unemployment benefit when they have a nice house and lots of savings? Why pay a state pension to those who don’t need it? It come down to whether the government has to balls to make hard choices.

  • Wight Tory

    What this government fails to do is remind people that JSA is a contract to proving monies in exchange for the recipients to look for employment. If they can’t take work because their benefits pay more then they aren’t able to honour this contract. They shouldn’t be claiming it. They need to say if people can get work but it’s limited to a set term contract (seasonal jobs for example) that on completing the work, their benefit status would be resumed at current level. Refusal to take work, shouldn’t be an option.

  • Dennis Churchill

    The idea that the state should take our money then give it back as the political class sees fit was always just part of the Big State ideas of the 20th century.
    IDS is right, as he often is, welfare is a safety net not a means of wealth redistribution.
    Cut benefits for the better off, including completely free NHS treatments, but also cut taxes and the size of the bureaucracy employed to manage the redistribution machine.

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