Finally the figures are being exposed. Spending on welfare has risen by 40 per cent in real terms over 10 years of unprecedented economic growth. In that time the number of people claiming disability benefit has trebled and housing benefit doubled. This week, the loudest voices are warning that Mr Osborne’s cap on housing benefit could be devastating, especially in London, where rents are high. But do not underestimate the effect on the silent majority of the news that we spend £21 billion on housing benefit — more than on the police.
The Times reported yesterday that parents may face “eviction” from council houses when their children leave home under new “draconian” laws. But local authorities have queues of families waiting for houses because retired couples refuse to move. People who are scraping together their own rent wonder why anyone feels that they have a lifetime “right” to a council house. Ordinary people regularly make distinctions, not always correctly, between the “deserving” and the “undeserving” poor. Politicians cannot continue to treat these views with contempt.
It isn\’t that people are uncaring bastards who want the poor (and or the chavs) dumped into the streets to starve. It\’s rather that scales are falling from certain eyes.
What? They get that much?
Have a look at the comments to this typical Grauniad piece. Limiting housing benefit to only £400 a week, to only £20,800 a year, might mean that some poor families cannot live in central London. Oh Woes!
Then look at what the people who have to pay for this are saying: You What? They get more in rent than I earn in a year? And yet I have to pay tax for them?
Why can\’t they just move 5 miles east? Why can\’t they live in the suburbs, like I have to? What God given right do the unemployed or low paid have to live in Belgravia?
Bugger that for a game of soldiers.
I\’ve no doubt that part of the political fight back against these cuts will be a series of sob stories about who is actually carrying the pain of them. And I\’ve no doubt that there will be people who suffer pain.
But the best response from those in favour of the cuts will be to keep shining the light on what these benefits are actually paying for. Yes, you really do have to keep paying tax in order that….well, depending which side you\’re one, make your pick.
Yes, you have to pay tax so that we can subsidise this numpty to the tune of £20,800 a year to live in Westminster…..yes, you have to pay tax so that the kids of this unemployed single mother can eat.
My own guess about my fellow Britons is that the latter will get people quite happy to have the State in their wallets: the former not so much. And the more that the former is held up to the light, the more there will be a general agreement that the system needs to be changed.
And then, of course, we can point to Lee Jasper, Baroness Uddin and the rest who, despite high incomes and professional careers, still have their housing costs subsidised by the rest of us.
Depending upon how the same information is laid out, how the PR is done, these cuts could well actually be very popular indeed.