Newswatchers woke this morning to an announcement from DWP dictator Iain Duncan Smith that changes to the UK’s social security system that came into effect today are “fair”.
Was this an April Fool? One might reasonably think so, since he also trotted out the long-discredited line that it was about making sure “people find work always pays”. We all know that work won’t pay until people receive a living wage – the amount of benefit paid out by the government has nothing to do with that at all.
The measures, which are designed to put the squeeze on people who are genuinely poor and in need of state help, will actually ensure that families are around £900 a year worse off (some say “than when the Coalition entered government in 2010”, but some don’t).
The fact that they attack the poor shows that this government is intentionally ignoring the point – which is that those who caused the economic crash in the first place (bankers and the very rich) should by paying off the debts.
Instead, this government is giving a £100,000 tax handout to anyone on the top tax rate. Mr Smith’s ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ schemes drain hundreds of millions of pounds from the taxpayer and nearly £1 billion from the economy every year, while paying the vast majority of that money to rich business bosses, who ensure it is never seen again.
And Smith himself appears to have become confused about what he is trying to achieve. In the Telegraph, four days ago, he said: “If you listen to what I am saying, you will understand the reality is that this country is not cutting welfare, it is managing the growth at a lower level.” So the bill is increasing, is it?
But on the BBC website today he is quoted as saying the government was “trying to get control of the welfare bill and make sure it lowers.”
What is he doing, then – managing an increase or forcing a cut? Either way, the wrong people are being made to suffer.
In the same BBC article, a Liberal Democrat pensions minister called Steve Webb said the bedroom tax was supposed to help a quarter of a million people in Britain who are in “cramped, overcrowded accommodation – desperate for a family home and there aren’t enough homes and we’ve got to make better use of the houses we’ve got.”
Did the interviewer press him to admit that the Conservative policy of selling off council houses during the 1980s and 1990s was wrong? No. Opportunity missed there, BBC!
Remember: There isn’t enough social housing because the Tories sold it all off and pocketed the profit, rather than using it to build more. That’s why there isn’t enough to go around now. They created this situation.
And, if you’re in the overcrowded accommodation to which Mr Webb refers – or a victim of the Bedroom Tax, you are going to pay for it.
The simple fact of the Bedroom Tax is that it is a trap. The government says people can avoid paying it by moving to smaller accommodation, but this avoids the reality that such properties are not available – figures released by the Labour Party show that 97 per cent of the 600,000 affected households have nowhere else to go.
They have no choice but to take the loss in benefits and pay the difference themselves, while they appeal against the decision to include their household in those affected. Current advice is for everyone affected by the Bedroom Tax to appeal. Why make it easy for them?
The BBC website report goes on to damn the government’s other so-called “reforms” (the Conservatives use this word wrongly. A reform would make something better. These are simply cuts).
“It has been estimated that two million low income households [in England] will pay more, as a result of changes to council tax benefit,” the article states.
“Also from this month, most working-age benefits will increase by just one per cent – less than the likely rise in the cost of living.
“And later this month, an overall limit of £500 a week on claims is beginning in four London boroughs, and will come into force across England, Scotland and Wales over the coming months.”
Only in the warped recesses of Mr Smith’s mind.
Those of you who watch the pop charts will know that Ant and Dec are enjoying considerable success with their new version of Let’s Get Ready To Rumble.
I mention this because there has to be enough footage of Saturday’s anti-bedroom tax demonstrations to make a decent video to synch up with that perfectly-titled track.
Would anybody like to put one together and post it on YouTube? It could be a smash hit.
In more ways than one.
Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike
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