The statement by George Osborne that he is seeking to hit the welfare budget with at least a further £12 billion in cuts has split the cabinet and his own party.
As part of his mission to save a further £25 billion from government spending, Osborne announced that he plans to implement the cuts to welfare between 2016 and 2018 if the Conservatives win the next election.
His announcement on Monday has already caused public concern about the agenda of the Conservative party, and cause members of the cabinet to publically voice concerns about his decision. Even Duncan Smith (who we can hardly consider empathic) has criticised his fellow party and cabinet member.
Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, described Osborne’s announcement as a ‘monumental mistake’ as the knives start to come out in the run-up to the general election in 2015. He told the Guardian “You’ve got a Conservative party now who are driven, it seems to me, by two very clear ideological impulses. One is to remorselessly pare back the state – for ideological reasons just cut back the state.
“Secondly – and I think they are making a monumental mistake in doing so – they say the only people in society, the only section in society, which will bear the burden of further fiscal consolidation are the working-age poor.”
Clegg later added “I literally don’t know of a serious economist who believes that you only do it from that lopsided, unbalanced approach. Almost all serious economists say you have some kind of mix.”
In an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme, Osborne said he would seek to achieve some of the £12bn savings by targeting housing benefit for under-25s and by means-testing people on incomes of £60,000 to £70,000 who live in social housing. But one Whitehall source said that targeting those two areas would produce “laughable” savings, which would be in the region of £40 million to £76 million per year.
Alison Worsley, deputy director of strategy at Barnardo’s, told the Independent “Any proposal to remove housing benefits from all under-25s risks leaving some of this country’s most vulnerable people stranded. We must not forget that many disadvantaged young people starting out in the world simply do not have a family that they can turn to for help.”
Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, said “Labour will have to make cuts and in 2015-16 there will be no more borrowing for day-to-day spending… But we will get the deficit down in a fair way, not give tax cuts to millionaires. And we know that the way to mitigate the scale of the cuts needed is to earn and grow our way to higher living standards for all.”
Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said “Wherever you look, you are taking money either from people who are poor, from people who are sick and disabled or people with children, none of which looks terribly easy to achieve, but these are difficult times.”
Whichever way we look all we can see is the destruction of our welfare support system – and of our public services – by the Conservatives.
The welfare system is never going to be perfect, and there will always be those who take advantage of it. But there are many, many more genuine people who need the support of the welfare system to be able to exist in a society that has been created by successive governments and bankers in the first place.
A basic principle of any advanced society is that everyone within it should not be placed in a position where they suffer disproportionately, and where there is a culture of inclusion – not exclusion.
The Conservatives are going in completely the opposite direction. It seems as though they are intent on making very clear divides between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, and are intent on destroying the foundations on which our society is based – which millions have suffered and given their lives for – so their cronies can make a quick profit mopping up the leftovers.
As more public services are cut, so private companies are picking up lucrative government contracts, as we have seen in recent times with tendering to provide NHS services which have been cut to the bone, and other private companies (all of which have very cosy relations with government) picking up very profitable welfare contracts.
If the government were really interested in cutting welfare costs, they would have put more resources into ensuring the benefit system was given the right tools to catch those who are abusing it. So far we have seen nothing of the sort, with the government resorting to penalising those who are the weakest target. Their actions in no way ‘reform’ the system – quite the opposite. We STILL have people who abuse the welfare system and cost the tax payer at least tens of millions of pounds a year, and no more resources to catch and prosecute them.
It must be a sign of gross incompetence when the cabinet becomes split over the decision of one of its members, let alone a member of the same political party,
George Osborne has pressed the self-destruct switch for the Conservatives, and any notion of winning the next election must be of secondary concern as we will no doubt see a damage limitation exercise from Cameron and his cronies in the near future. In other words, more propaganda and bullshit as the spin doctors and body language trainers are called in to try and save the day.