Err, no, he ain\’t

Below the breadline on Liverpool\’s workless estates

One-third of households are now on the dole as downturn forces some benefits claimants to survive on less than £20 a week

He just ain\’t being asked to survive on £20 a week.

He gets about £67 a week as jobseeker\’s allowance, but £15 is instantly deducted in child maintenance for the three of his five children who are under 16, none of whom live with him. Another £10 a week is also currently being deducted at source to repay a historic crisis loan that he was given by the jobcentre to tide the family over when he lost his job on another occasion about a decade ago, leaving him with just over £40 pounds. Out of that he is paying back a credit card debt of around £1,000, which he ran up when he first lost his full-time work 18 months ago, and he needed money to tide him over. (He went to his bank to ask for an overdraft facility to help him through that difficult time, and was told he wasn\’t eligible for one, but was invited to apply for a credit card instead.)

Bebb is paying this off at a rate of £33 a month, which he often finds very challenging. He spends £14 a week on recharging his gas and electricity accounts, so just under £20 is left for food, clothes, bus tickets and everything else. His rent is currently paid by housing benefit.

Note the housing benefit? There\’s also the council tax deduction, child benefit, free school meals and etc etc.

That he\’s got £20 a week cash in his pocket is not the same thing at all as saying that he\’s trying to survive on £20 a week.

But no doubt this number will run and run through the leftoid press. As ever, a variant of Worstall\’s Fallacy, refusing to acknowledge what is already being done to alleviate poverty.

16 comments on “Err, no, he ain\’t

  1. Am I the only one who is a little appalled by the amazingly long series of bad decisions this man seems to have made?

    I mean I don’t know as I wasn’t there, but I am really supposed to feel sympathy for someone when I am already paying for three of his five children now living elsewhere and under 15?

  2. The WSJ has an article (get past the paywall with google news US edition) on the decline of Buffalo. This is firmly attributed to high local taxes as a result of government aid.
    The similarity with Liverpool is striking and one wonders whether Thatcher’s advisers were right and Heseltine was (as ever) wrong.

  3. “His two eldest children, who are 21 and 23, haven’t found work since they left school at 16, although they are looking. He remembers the years spent on the dole when he left school in a similarly bleak economic period in the early 80s – around the time that Margaret Thatcher was considering abandoning Liverpool to “managed decline”…”

    Ding ding ding! Obligatory ‘Thatcher’ reference! No ‘Guardian’ article on Liverpool complete without one!

  4. I’m always in two minds about this kind of argument. Yes, he got himself in a mess. But the general nature of the argument is that he has very little money to live on, so Tim’s criticism comes across as somewhat nitpicking the terminology used- which is, yes, emotive, but so is everyone. The basic point is the not unreasonable one that twenty quid is fuck all.

    Perhaps my response is somewhat coloured by the fact that I’ve just been looking at the Telegraph’s “debt crisis live” thingy, where we’re watching the fabulously rich elites of Europe fighting to save a State managed, fundamentally corrupt system which shovels mountains of cash, in quantities so huge that they are beyond the imagining of ordinary mortals, into the pockets of the cartels who manage that system, purely to keep their lavish lifestyles rolling, and with the clear intent that everyone else is obligated to keep the gravy train on the rails, even if it ruins us all.

    It remains inescapable that the reason for the burden of welfare at the bottom of the system is levels of corruption at the top so immense that we cannot comprehend them and end up in denial as to their extent. The government/banking cartel openly and proudly runs a system which economists proved many decades ago ruthlessly ruins the productive classes and destroys their means to produce for themselves. The great Ludwig Von Mises demonstrated the “ratchet” mechanism which pulls wealth from the lower and middle classes into the pockets of the upper class closest to the money cannons.

    Sorry to rant, but we can’t fix things from the bottom end. It’s the top that has to go first. I’d start a productive business producing guillotines and tumbrels in readiness, but the fucking bank won’t lend me the capital.

  5. @IanB: yes he has very little to live on – but crucially the reason for that is entirely down to his bad decisions over the last X numbers of years. If we ignore his (and millions more like him) bad decisions, and say ‘Hard luck old chap, don’t worry we’ll pay for your 3 kids, and pay off your credit card, and forgive your loan, and here’s £100 in cash per week for your everyday needs’ what incentive is there for anyone to work at all?

    If society ignores all bad decision making, and always allows the individual to escape all the consequences of all their actions where will we end up?

  6. If you are living on benefits, how hard is it to move?

    I mean, If I was living in Liverpool and it really was that hard to find work, I would move, but then If I am having to survive on housing benefit, is this actually possible?

  7. So we are to believe that Liverpool Social Services was handing out crisis loans of £5200 a throw on a ten-year payback a decade ago? That £33 a month is more than £8 a week? That he has £40 to last a fortnight for food and spends £33 of it in the first four days – that’s more than I need to spend on food when I am working from home – that he got no redundancy money when laid off? The answer to the last is No, because he was laid off 2 years ago as well as a decade ago and the Guardian journalist writes “first” when she means “last” – an easy mistake to make in preparation for the Olympics: be prepared for Guardian articles celebrating UK victories over Jamaica in the 100 metres!

  8. Ian B, there’s a huge difference.

    Twenty quid per week total to live on is indeed fuck all; at that level you’re begging on the street, and if you’re living on the street twenty quid won’t even feed you properly for a week.

    But twenty quid a week once your house, taxes, electricity and gas are paid for means you’ve got a roof over your head and you’re warm and dry.

    And you’ve got a kitchen to cook in, and as we discussed a few weeks ago, once you’ve got a kitchen you can feed yourself for your twenty quid a week cash.

    100 years ago, certainly 150 years ago, this would have been considered a fairly good working class life (and remember he’s getting this wothout having to do a stroke of work).

    So no, Tim’s not “nitpicking”. He’s pointing out a difference between starving in the gutter and living modestly well. Probably one that Guardian writers are too out of touch with poverty to understand.

  9. [Bebb] goes once a fortnight to one of two local shops that offer heavily discounted food – packets of buy-one-get-one-free frozen burgers for a pound, two-for-£1 ice-cream tubs for his younger children who stay with him at the weekend, a bag of frozen chips, which, if he rations it correctly, he can get four meals out of. When that runs out he eats rice and pasta which he gets for 25p a pack at Tesco. “Sometimes you have to eat crap.”

    For breakfast now, he has toast rather than Weetabix. If this seems an unremarkable shift, he explains the subtle financial calculations behind the change: a loaf of bread contains, say, 30 slices, and costs around 40 pence, while a packet of Weetabix costs nearer £2 and only has enough for 12 breakfasts, so is less economical. Because he’s not eating cereal, he buys less milk, and has switched to getting a litre of longlife so that he can eke it out for as long as possible without it going off. “You’ve got to think like that when you’re shopping.”
    … he sometimes feels wobbly when he does the 45-minute walk to the job centre…

    OK, frozen beef burgers seem less expensive than frozen beef mince per kg, but cheap beef burgers aren’t 100% beef, they are closer to 50% beef. I’ve read some good recipes that sacrifice the quantity of meat for quality to get a delicious meal, bulking it out with other things (e.g. beans), so I don’t think it’s necessary to eat burgers. And of course if you have beef mince then burgers are among a number of dishes you can make.

    Two tubs for £1 ice cream – well, can’t begrudge the man a treat for the kids but we don’t know the weight. You can buy ice cream for 7p per 100ml. Tubs are usually 500ml, sometimes 1l (boxes 1l), so this seems relatively expensive.

    AFAIK loose potatoes are cheaper than frozen chips (!) and give many, many more options (dare I say some are more nutritious) than just “chips”.

    Rice and pasta aren’t inherently “crap”.

    Toast instead of Weetabix? The former can be anything from 15p per 100g, the latter is about 50p per 100g, of course it depends on how much you buy in one go. But surely breakfast doesn’t need to be a case of “toast or Weetabix”. What about an own-brand ‘wheat biscuit’, which will be between a third to a quarter of the price of Weetabix, therefore just a little more expensive than cheap bread? Or a cereal or some other foodstuff that isn’t a wheat biscuit? Granola is supposed to be more ‘healthy’ than Weetabix (it’s certainly more healthy than cheap bread) and it’s cheaper, too. Perhaps chuck some natural yoghurt on that – a little more costly than long life milk of course, but you need less of it,and ISTM it’s tastier, more filling and gives you more energy than milk. Incidentally, Granola on its own has more than double the calories in cheap bread – no wonder the guy feels wobbly when he goes walking. There’s as many calories in cheap eggs as in cheap bread – I imagine the eggs are more nutritious.

    I’m not saying it’s easy, just that it seems these people interviewed don’t know how to eat, they don’t seem to know what their options are. I hope I’m not being unfair.

  10. Oh yes, the evil bloody bankers, not lending money to people who can’t pay it back…

    If they did a lot more lending to no-hopers, we wouldn’t be in this position, would we?

    Ohhh…

  11. Once I’ve paid for my house, my electricity, gas, credit card debts, my car and fuel, Virgin box, pension, twenty a day, food, masseur, gym membership, wine club and the woman who comes around to do the cleaning, I only have £19 a week to live on! Why won’t the Guardian write an article about my hardship?!

  12. “But surely breakfast doesn’t need to be a case of “toast or Weetabix”. What about an own-brand ‘wheat biscuit’..”

    Yes, I wondered about that too…

  13. ukliberty, thank you for posting his shopping list.

    I love the idea that rice and pasta are “crap”, as opposed to the proper food of discount burgers, oven chips and cheap ice cream.

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