Public spending on benefits has fallen by just £2.5 billion, despite cuts aimed at saving nearly eight times as much (£19bn) – because the silly unqualified Conservative career politicians who dreamed them up had no idea of the knock-on effects of their plans.
The miscalculations have not affected any Tory donors or rich people likely to vote Conservative, so it seems unlikely the government will care.
The BBC reported that the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said the reasons for the increased spending included a rise in the cost of pensioner benefits (yet another BBC inaccuracy – the rise was in the cost of state pension payments) and an increase in housing benefit spending.
Let’s look at that.
The IFS said the £5 billion increase in state pensions was due to the “more generous” entitlements of a new generation of pensioners who had recently retired. This is entirely predictable and should have been included in the Conservative Party’s calculations before the Tories ever got anywhere near the Department for Work and Pensions. It is an avoidable mistake that they didn’t avoid. And they’re financially reliable?
Switching from measuring inflation using RPI – which shows a higher rate – to CPI (in order to pretend that the cost of living isn’t rising quite as fast as it really is) hasn’t saved the £4 billion the government expected. This relates more to pensions than any other benefits, as these are linked to inflation. The government was hoping to save billions because CPI inflation rises more slowly than RPI – but it hasn’t happened, for reasons stated in the paragraph immediately above. The Tories should have known this; they didn’t. Stupid Tories.
The BBC reported: “There had been an ‘unanticipated’ rise in housing benefit spending of £1bn, despite cuts of £2bn, which was down to the growth of the private rental sector, rising rents and slow earnings growth.
Are the Conservatives seriously trying to tell us that they didn’t realise the Bedroom Tax would lead to an increase in Housing Benefit claims on privately-rented properties? What did they think was going to happen? Oh no, wait… That was the plan! Tip people out of social housing on the pretext that they are under-occupying, and send them off to rent from private landlords. But private landlords always – always – charge more and the Conservative Party, many of whose members happen to be private landlords, would know that. So we have an increase in the amount of public money being spent on rents that are charged by Conservative-voting landlords. What a handy way of getting money into the pockets of your rich voting base! Let’s conclude that this particular bit of extra spending was in the plan from the start.
Rising rents are a logical consequence of an influx into the private rented sector from social housing. Suddenly there’s a squeeze on space and private landlords are able to hike rents. Again, Tory-voting landlords get a boost from the government.
Slow earnings growth was also planned by the Conservative Party, and is connected to spending on unemployment benefits. The benefits uprating cap of one per cent per year means an increase in social insecurity, intended to force people to seek work of any kind, no matter how low-paid. It’s not so much about making work pay as it is about making it the better of two bad options. The knock-on effect is that there is no job security any more. Anyone agitating for higher wages can be told there are hundreds of people willing to work for less. That will shut them up. The Tories planned this. It seems bizarre that they did not realise people would have to claim in-work benefits in order to make ends meet. That’s why spending on tax credits has fallen by less than expected. So – again – this should have been included in Tory calculations before they got into the DWP. It is another nail in the coffin of their financial reliability.
Here’s a personal favourite: “‘Significant delays’ in the replacement of Disability Living Allowance with the ‘less generous’ Personal Independence Payment had led to a £1.6 billion increase in spending, rather than a £1.2 billion cut.” It seems the Conservatives did not reckon on the people they’re trying to rob doing all they can to stop their money being taken away.
More seriously, this means that all the cuts to the social security budget should never have happened – nor should the thousands of deaths due to the increased pressure placed on claimants by the DWP on the order of its ignorant secretary of state, Iain Duncan Returned-To-Unit Smith.
Conference speaker: It seems Iain Duncan Smith was at the Tory conference after all – talking about some hare-brained plan to use pre-paid cards to limit what benefit claimants buy.
Iain Duncan Smith was practically invisible during the Conservative Party conference. He made a speech – apparently. Can anybody remember what it was about? It seems to have been obscured by overarching interest in what people like Theresa May, George Osborne and even David Cameron had to say.
Well, he’s back now, talking such flagrant and unremitting nonsense about his job that it is hard not to remove the asterisks from the following description of his words: B*llsh*t.
So in Saturday’s Telegraph he was b*llsh*tting about his mission to kill as many people with long-term illness or disabilities as he can, and to kick social housing tenants onto the streets: “I don’t think about this as a job… I have a vocation.”
Oh is that right? Let’s see what RTU has to say when the public kick him out of office next May, when he’ll be told in no uncertain terms – as he was when he was in the Army – that his Services are No Longer Required (and never were).
The Torygraph article seems an attempt to rehabilitate the image of this evil dunce by claiming his founding of the (let’s give it its proper name) Centre for Social Injustice brought into being “one of the most influential centre-right thinktanks in British history”. Does it deserve this gushing praise? Not at all; its only influence is as a cheerleader for RTU’s policies of hate.
“Mr Duncan Smith’s animating passion is to help the workless poor to help themselves by moving off benefits and into employment,” gushes the article by some apparatchik called Tim Ross (who?). “It is easy to see how much value he places on meaningful work, especially after a recession.
“’People at the bottom end have felt it worst,’ he says. ‘I just want to get on and improve their quality of life. This is my mission so I’m going to continue on it.’”
Let’s look at how he plans to do that. According to The Independent, it involves taxing disability benefits for the first time, in order to make it even harder for people living with permanent and progressive conditions to “get on and improve their quality of life”.
The new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is already much harder-to-get than the benefit it replaces, Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Smith reckoned this was fair when he introduced it but now he has decided it would be more fair to reduce the amount of cash available still further.
He’s saying that those on higher incomes should be taxed in order to subsidise higher benefits for the poorest – but the same article states that the move is intended to raise £7 billion, not for people with disabilities, but for the Tory-led government.
It quotes a government source, talking to the Sunday Times: ““It cannot be right that those on the lowest incomes get the same disability benefits as those who are millionaires.” Do we know many millionaires who have claimed DLA or PIP – other than David Cameron?
Ending the universality of disability benefits would involve means-testing. This is complex and costly and results in people who need the benefit not claiming it because the process is too complex or intrusive. Iain Duncan Smith – that odious worm – is aware of this. Why else would he be proposing it? You can expect the new system also to have a version of his ‘mandatory reconsideration’ procedure, currently ruining Employment and Support Allowance, to make sure possible claimants get the message and clear off.
“Not even this much”: Iain Duncan Smith demonstrates how much he cares about the fact that his claims about unemployment being a lifestyle choice have been revealed as lies. It WON’T change his attitude and it WON’T change his policies.
Hopefully the piece’s author, Hugh Moir, will forgive us if we don’t bat an eyelid in surprise.
Researchers spent eight months failing to unearth any examples of joblessness as a lifestyle choice, or multiple generations of a family in which nobody had worked. And – crucially: “They did not find any prevailing aversion or reluctance to work.”
The article continues: “The new research does suggest that the reasons for long-term endemic joblessness are much more complicated than the story crafted by government and eagerly gobbled up by irresponsible programme makers and scrounger-seeking tabloids.”
What’s unusual about this particular article is that, rather than end it there, Moir goes in for the kill: “Attention to the multiple causes of long-term joblessness would require well-funded, well-staffed social services, a focus on problems such as alcohol abuse in deprived communities and resources to fight the ravages of drug addiction in poor areas. But these are the very services that feel the full effect of the government’s cuts in local-authority funding and its wider objective to shrink the state.
“This is waste of potential on a grand scale, ruining lives, and damaging to the economy. But in the absence of any strategy to deal with the problem at its most complex, we are offered a narrative to define it at its most superficial. Four years in, subjected to scrutiny, that approach may at last be starting to unravel.”
As, of course, it should.
Interestingly, the piece starts by referring to stories crafted by other politicians about themselves, to make them seem more appealing. So Bill Clinton was “the boy from Hope” – a small-town boy from Arkansas who did well, rather than a privileged American who had studied at some of the best universities in the world; and George W Bush claimed he was an average boy from an average family when we know his father was a leading Republican and president-to-be.
It does not mention RTU’s own self-crafted story – that he attended the Universita di Perugia in Italy, that he was educated at Dunchurch College of Management, that he had a glittering Army career. This is odd, because it is more clearly bunkum than either of the US Presidents’ claims.
Vox Political has produced an entire article about his lies – one which, due to their sheer weight of numbers, remains unfinished. For further information, why not take a look at it?
After that, you’ll never believe a single word he says.
Finger-jabbing protest: Iain Duncan Smith talked over Owen Jones in his last Question Time appearance; this time the other panellists didn’t give him the chance.
Around three-quarters of the way through tonight’s Question Time, I was ready to believe the BBC had pulled a fast one on us and we weren’t going to see Iain Duncan Smith get the well-deserved comeuppance that he has managed to avoid for so long in Parliament and media interviews.
There was plausible deniability for the BBC – the Isis crisis that has blown up in Iraq is extremely topical and feeds into nationwide feeling about the possibility of Britain going to war again in the Middle East. The debate on extremism in Birmingham schools is similarly of public interest – to a great degree because it caused an argument between Tory cabinet ministers. Those are big issues at the moment and the BBC can justifiably claim that it was making best use of the time and the panellists (for example Salma Yaqoob is a Muslim, from Birmingham, who is a member of ‘Hands Off Our Schools’).
But Auntie shouldn’t think for a moment that we didn’t notice the glaring omission on tonight’s agenda. With the Work and Pensions Secretary as the major politician on the panel, we should have had a question about his job but were fobbed off instead with non-items about ‘British values’ and whether parents should be arrested for allowing their children to become obese. That’s enough for some of us to read a right-wing agenda between the lines – an aim to avoid embarrassing Iain Duncan Smith.
It seems that, even if Auntie’s twin-set is pink, her bloomers are blue. Blue-mers, if you like.
By the time the fourth question came up, it seemed there would be no opportunity to analyse RTU (we call him Returned To Unit after his failed Army career) and his disastrous ministerial career.
This question was: “After the Newark by-election, are we looking at the destruction of the Liberal Democrats?” Thank goodness some of the panellists realised this was their chance.
Chris Bryant leapt at the opportunity to bypass the Lib Dems altogether. “The real enemy is over there,” he said, indicating the Secretary-in-a-State. “The Conservatives have made this country a place where two million people need food bank handouts.”
Salma Yaqoob pointed out that, thanks to the Conservative-led coalition (and, because he’s the Work and Pensions secretary, Duncan Smith’s policies), “13 million people are now below the poverty line and one million are suffering the indignity of having to use food banks.
“People are suicidal,” she pointed out – a very pertinent claim to make, as the most common cause of death for people going through Iain Duncan Smith’s benefit system appears to be suicide (due to the stress created by Department for Work and Pensions officers who work very hard to push them off-benefit). “They don’t want to be a burden to their families because their support has been taken away.”
She said: “People have been called scroungers… Iain Duncan Smith quite happily labels poor people as scroungers, when he claimed £39 on expenses for his own breakfast.”
Duncan Smith was interrupting from the background to claim that he had never called benefit claimants scroungers. Feel free to go to your favourite search engine right now, type in “Iain Duncan Smith scroungers”, and see for yourself whether his name has ever been associated with the word.
And, thank goodness, a member of the public spoke up to say: “Iain Duncan Smith is systematically taking down public services in this country and destroying people’s lives.”
He went on to invite anybody who cares about this issue to the demonstration in London by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, on June 21.
(I have since discovered that he was David Peel, press officer for the People’s Assembly Against Austerity. In my opinion, the fact that he was a political representative, planted in the audience to make a point, diminishes what he had to say – but I am still glad that somebody said what he did.)
It was sad that the great satirist Ian Hislop did not take an opportunity to make a few sharp observations – especially as commenters to this site have made it clear that they contacted him to request this action. He addressed himself to the question he had been asked and I make no comment about that; you can draw your own conclusions.
It didn’t happen the way this writer would have wanted, but the job got done anyway.
Expect multiple attempts by the right-wing press to salvage the situation – all doomed to failure.
Last week, Vox Political stated that there was an opportunity here to show the public the homicidal – if not genocidal – nature of the changes to the benefit system this man mockingly describes as “welfare reforms”.
It seems that food bank charity The Trussell Trust has been making too many waves around the Conservative-led Coalition government’s policies regarding benefits, social security and welfare.
Readers may recall how the charity warned that Coalition policies had created a need for a huge expansion in the number of food banks across the UK. The Tories countered this by accusing the trust of “misleading and emotionally manipulative publicity-seeking”, and also of “aggressively marketing [its] services”.
After this failed to make a dent in public opinion, the Daily Mail tried to discredit the trust by claiming it was handing out food parcels without checking whether the people claiming them were bona fide.
But it turned out that the paper’s claim of “inadequate checks on who claims the vouchers, after a reporter obtained three days’ worth of food simply by telling staff at a Citizens Advice Bureau – without any proof – that he was unemployed” was not true. The reporter in fact committed fraud by telling a string of lies in order to falsely claim his food parcel in a flagrant abuse of the system.
The public response was immediate – donations to the Trussell Trust’s fundraising appeal shot through the roof.
Now the government has tried a different tack: blackmail. Instead of trying to justify the government’s position or undermine that taken by the trust in public, it has been revealed that, recently, “someone in power” told trust bosses that the government “might try to shut you down” if the trust continued to cause it embarrassment.
This detail was revealed while Trussell Trust chairman Chris Mould was giving evidence to the Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector this week.
The Trussell Trust is in a fairly robust position with regard to government interference; a 2005 decision by the charity’s trustees to avoid seeking government funding means it is in a better position to resist pressure.
But the trust has to consider the worst-case scenario. If the government did manage to shut it down, hundreds of thousands of people would starve.
That is the real threat posed by the Conservative-led government. Shutting down the Trussell Trust won’t hurt anybody who runs the charity or volunteers for it.
But it could kill food bank users across the country.
It is exactly the kind of covert, backstabbing move we have come to expect from the likes of Iain Duncan Smith.
Oh, come on! You knew RTU (it means Returned To Unit and is our tribute to his Army career) would figure in this article somewhere.
According to Mr Mould, he received a phone call from “someone” in the office of the Secretary-in-a-State about Work and Pensions, back in 2011. He said it was “basically to tell me that the boss was very angry with us because we were publicising the concerns we have over the rising number of people who were struggling as a consequence of delays and inefficiences in the benefits system”.
Unfortunately – for sly abusers like Duncan Smith – the kind of threats recorded above are really only useful when they are kept secret. The idea is always to present the victim with a double-bind – in this case, not only would food bank users suffer, but the Trussell Trust would get the blame for having withdrawn the service (whether voluntarily or not).
Now that we all know the government itself is putting the screws on – and is doing so in retaliation against the Trussell Trust’s entirely legitimate attempts to raise awareness of government policies’ disastrous effects – it would be electoral suicide.
That being said, watch Iain Duncan Smith on Question Time today.
He’s probably stupid enough to go through with it anyway.
Picture the scene if you can: It’s shortly after 11.35pm on Thursday (June 5) and all my inboxes are suddenly overflowing – with the same message: Iain Duncan Smith will be on Question Time next week.
The implication was that there is an opportunity here – to show the public the homicidal – if not genocidal – nature of the changes to the benefit system this man mockingly describes as “welfare reforms”.
We were given the name of only one other panellist who will be appearing in the June 12 show, broadcast from King’s Lynn: Private Eye editor Ian Hislop. He is certainly the kind of man who should relish a chance to take the politician we call RTU (Returned To Unit) down a peg or two – in fact the Eye has run articles on DWP insanity fairly regularly over the past two decades at least.
Personally I’d like to see him joined by Michael Meacher and Owen Jones, at the very least. A rematch between Smith and Jones would be terrific television (but it is unlikely that the coward IDS would ever agree to it).
All such a panel would need to get started is a question about “welfare reform”. Then they could start at the beginning with the involvement of the criminal US insurance corporation Unum, which has been advising the British government since Peter Lilley was Secretary of State for Social Security. There appears to be a moratorium on even the mention of Unum in the British press so, if this is the first you’ve heard of it, now you know why.
Unum’s version of an unproven strand of psychology known as biopsychosocial theory informs the current work capability assessment, used by the coalition government to evaluate whether a claimant of sickness benefits (Incapacity Benefit/Employment Support Allowance or Disability Living Allowance/Personal Independence Payment) should receive any money. The assessment leans heavily on the psycho part of the theory – seeking to find ways of telling claimants their illnesses are all in the mind and they are fit for work. This is how Unum wormed its way out of paying customers when their health insurance policies matured – and it is also how Unum received its criminal conviction in the States.
Members of the public have tried to use the Freedom of Information Act to pry updated figures from the DWP. I know of one man who was told that the 2011 figures were provided in an ‘ad hoc’ release and there was no plan for a follow-up; the figures are not collected and processed routinely. The last part of this was a lie, meaning the DWP had illegally failed to respond to a legitimate FoI request.
Having seen that individual attempts to use the FoI Act to get the information had failed, I put in a request of my own and suggested others do the same, resulting in (I am told) 23 identical requests to the DWP in June last year. Apparently this is vexatious behaviour and when I took the DWP to a tribunal earlier this year, it won.
But the case brought out useful information, such as a DWP employee’s admission that “the Department does hold, and could provide within the cost limit, some of the information requested”.
Now, why would the Department, and Iain Duncan Smith himself, want to withhold these figures – and lie to the public about having them? It seems to me that the death toll must have increased, year on year. That is the only explanation that makes sense.
The DWP, and its Secretary-in-a-State, have had their attention drawn to the deaths many times, if not in interviews then in Parliament. DWP representatives (if not Mr Duncan Smith himself) have taken pains to say they have been improving the system – but still they won’t say how many deaths have taken place since November 2011.
If it can be proved that DWP ministers were aware of the problem (and we know they are) but did not change the situation enough to slow the death rate (as seems to be the case), then it seems clear that there has been an intention to ignore the fact that people have been dying unnecessarily. This runs against Human Rights legislation, and a strong case could be made for the corporate manslaughter of thousands of people.
And that’s just ESA!
When we come to PIP, there’s the issue of the thousands of claimants who have been parked – without assessment – for months at a time, waiting to find out if they’ll receive any money.
Universal Credit currently has no budget, it seems, but the DWP is clearly still wasting millions of pounds on a project that will never work as it is currently conceived.
It would be nice to think that at least one member of Thursday’s panel might read this article and consider standing up for the people, but it’s a long shot.
Possibly a million-to-one chance, in fact.
According to Terry Pratchett, that makes it an absolute certainty!
Today’s Sunday Politics interview was an almost reasonable attempt at getting facts from the slippery Iain Duncan Smith.
Most of the information provided by the Work and Pensions Secretary wasn’t factually accurate, but at least Andrew Neil had the guts to ask some of the questions this blog did not expect from him.
Let’s be honest, though – he bottled the Big One. The Elephant in the Studio was the number of people who have died due to the Incapacity Benefit/ESA sanctions regime imposed by Iain Duncan Smith (never mind Labour’s early involvement; it’s a Tory baby now) and policed by Atos (although the firm has realised this is commercial suicide and is trying to get out of the contract).
Oh, you thought the reference to elephants was aimed at Messrs Neil and Duncan Smith themselves? No – they might be large, lumbering monsters but the largest pachyderms in the room were metaphorical.
The question is topical as it is still only a matter of days since we all learned that Mark Wood died of starvation after the DWP found him fit for work – despite mental problems including an eating disorder. The DWP has maintained, in the face of all the evidence, that there is no reason to relate claimant deaths to loss of benefits, but this fantasy is likely to be ruined by the verdict of Mr Wood’s inquest.
The relevant questions are: Why has he decided to cover up the number of suicides? And does he have a figure relating to the number of deaths before he accepts a policy might not be working?
Why were they not put? Did Mr… Smith impose a moratorium on them before he entered the studio?
But let’s be fair to Mr Neil. Questions from the POLITICS’ Facebook page WERE directed to the Secretary-in-a-State, starting with one from Lesley Roberts, asking why so much Universal Credit funding has been written off. The response was a rehash of the excuse given to the Work and Pensions Committee; that the money has been written DOWN (meaning, I think, that the value of the investment has been downgraded in the same way your computer is worth less now than the amount you paid for it – “the amortisation of cost over a period of time”). That’s not an acceptable answer as the money has still been spent.
“You’ve written off £140 million,” said Mr Neil.
“No no no, we haven’t,” insisted Iain Duncan Smith, starting a pattern that would continue throughout the interview.
As Vox Political commenter Shaun Gardner remarked: “It’s more than a little frightening that every set of statistics, be it ONS or Institute of Fiscal Studies, is wrong and IDS is correct. He’s a bloody madman.”
“But even your Conservative cabinet colleague Francis Maude says the implementation of Universal Credit has been, quote, ‘pretty lamentable’!” This was laughed off as a reference to a time before … Smith made changes to the project. Emergency changes, these were, that he didn’t mention to anyone until many months later, maintaining that everything was hunky-dory in the meantime.
Challenged over the fact that he was predicting a million people would be on UC by April, and only 3,000 are currently in receipt, the man we call RTU (Returned To Unit) said: “I’m not going to bandy figures around,” then immediately went back on this with, “It’s over 6,000 and rising.” He said he wanted to roll it out carefully, having made changes two years ago. That won’t wash, because he ALWAYS said he was going to go slow with this disastrous white elephant of a scheme.
One aspect of what he said that disturbed this writer was when the Secretary of State claimed Universal Credit would make it easier for people to take short-term work while they look for long-term jobs. He said the current system penalises people for doing this, and we can see from people’s recent experiences http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2014/03/08/sanctioned-for-working-and-being-honest-about-it/ that there is truth in it. But the nature of Universal Credit means that benefits are adjusted according to the amount people have earned; if someone does a day’s work and is paid even minimum wage for it, then the UC computers (if they ever work) will dock that amount from that person’s benefit – they will be no better-off. In fact, they may be worse-off, as there may be knock-on effects on other aspects of that person’s income. How is this making work pay?
“Universal Credit IS supposed to make work pay – that is your mantra,” said Mr Neil. “Under Universal Credit, the marginal tax rate can still be 76 per cent!
“Er, no, actually,” said the interviewee, going on to say it would be 76 per cent for lone parents “in the tax bracket”. What tax bracket? Was he really saying this only counted for lone parents who found a job paying enough for them to cross the ever-higher Income Tax threshold, and he doesn’t expect these people (who would also have to pay for child care, of course) to ever cross that threshold? What does that say about the kind of work he expects people to be taking under a Tory government – the kind of pay they will receive? What does that say about his expectations for lone parents ever to find work that pays? What does it say about the Conservative Party’s expectations regarding Income Tax, if most people are only ever expected to find work that doesn’t mean they will ever earn enough to pay it?
Mr Neil’s response: “You’re going to tax poor people at the same rate that the French socialist government taxes billionaires!”
Moving on to the Work Programme, Mr Neil quoted the Commons Public Accounts Committee, who said it was “worse than doing nothing”.
Response: “No, they’re wrong, it’s actually way better than doing nothing.” Backed up with some statistics about 280,000 people getting into sustained work for more than six months. He added that a company had been sacked in the past week for poor performance as there is competition in every area and WP provider companies don’t get paid if they don’t hit targets. The last point is extremely debateable, considering the woeful lack of effort to help people, as witnessed by many people who have been through the process and then commented about it on this blog.
Mr Neil’s riposte: “‘The best-performing provider only moved five per cent of people off-benefit and into work; the worst managed just two per cent. The programme is failing young people and the hardest to help.'” Mr… Smith said this was from a National Audit Office report that referred only to the first few months of the programme. In fact (see Vox Political articles of the past) the Work Programme has been a failure for both of its first two years; it is still in its third.
Neil: “Why is long-term unemployment rising?”
Duncan Smith: “Long-term unemployment is falling.”
Neil: “Not in figures that have been announced by the ONS.”
Duncan Smith harped back to the competition among WP providers, saying it was what drives up performance. In fact, we’ve seen that this competition drives performance DOWN, as these for-profit companies scrabble to make the most money by providing the worst service.
Courageously, Mr Neil moved on to Mr… Smith’s religious beliefs. He pointed out that the Secretary of State is a practising Catholic, but the most senior Catholic in the land, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, has attacked his “reforms”, saying they are becoming “more and more punitive”.
Response: “I don’t agree… Most of the facts they put in were incorrect. Disposable income… is at its highest level that it has been for a long time.” He said the poorest 10 per cent are now spending a lower proportion of their income on food “because their disposable income has improved”.
What an interesting insight into Planet Duncan Smith THAT was! Who thinks the more likely reason is that they have less money to spend on food because they are having to spend a larger proportion of their DWINDLING income on the rent (thanks to the Bedroom Tax) and on utility bills (because the Tory-led government has allowed private electricity, gas and water firms to charge whatever they wanted, unchecked, for too long)?
Housing benefit: Mr Neil pointed out that David Cameron announced people with disabled children would be exempt from the Bedroom Tax – but only after the DWP fought a High Court battle in support of the opposite position. Iain Duncan Smith fudged the issue. He said it was usual to go to appeal, but that he had said it was reasonable to exempt this group. The fact is that he fought tooth and nail to ensure disabled children would be victimised, failed, and cut his losses.
“The courts have upheld all of our positions on this, against much complaints,” he insisted. Let’s see… The Supreme Court has ruled that regulations governing “back to work” schemes were illegal. The Court of Appeal has rejected the government’s appeal against a ruling by the Upper Tribunal that the work capability assessment discriminates against people with mental health problems. The DWP itself admitted that Bedroom Tax regulations had ignored legislation exempting people who had occupied social housing and been in receipt of Housing Benefit since before January 1996 – but not before one such person, faced with a bill she could no longer afford to pay, walked onto a motorway where she was hit by a lorry and killed. The rules have since been amended to ensure that this group can be victimised along with everyone else.
The Work and Pensions Secretary went on to say that he hadn’t cut the rise in Housing Benefit; he had lowered it. If anyone wants to explain that distinction, please do.
He also said councils needed to use their accommodation more carefully, to improve the lot of people living in desperate overcrowding. Perhaps he is unaware that his government has been allowing (if not encouraging) councils to continue selling off their housing stock, making this increasingly less achievable – but this is doubtful. It’s his business to know.
Jobseekers’ Allowance: “A centre-right thinktank [Policy Exchange] that you’ve been associated with says 70,000 jobseekers’ benefits have been withdrawn unfairly.”
He said this was “a very small subset”, that “there is an immediate review within seven days”, and that people are “immediately able to get a hardship fund”.
Let’s ask Vox Political commenter Shaun Gardner (again) about this. He says: “Err no you can’t. It’s a never ending stream of BS and denial. IDS is bad for your mental health. He should come with a government health warning.”
Thanks for that, Shaun!
“This is not a nasty, vicious system,” claimed Iain Duncan Smith, straight-faced.
Back to Mr Neil: “Is child poverty rising?” (We know it is – Vox Political has carried figures from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and those quoted on this show came from the Institute of Fiscal Studies, a right-wing thinktank that once boasted Margaret Thatcher as one of its members.)
“No. Child poverty is actually falling.” A flat-out lie.
Final observation from Mr Neil: “More people in poverty are now in working families… For them, work is NOT paying.”
Final gambit from Mr Duncan Smith – and it’s an oldie: “Those figures refer to the last government’s time in government.” What a shame it isn’t true. The figures we have, from the JRF (again) include the first three years of Iain Duncan Smith’s time in office (up to and including 2012). In other words, this was another bare-faced lie.
And that was it. Apparently 20 minutes was not long enough to get all of Iain Duncan Smith’s lies broadcast, so he has agreed to come back and do some more lying at a later date.
Let’s leave this with one question that was definitely not going to get anywhere near RTU. It came from Sophie Hawthorne and runs as follows: “I was wondering if the Obersturmführer might be asked whether or not he understands what will happen to quisling lackeys like himself, with a solid track record of ideological, dogmatic hatred and pathological dishonesty, when his privileged masters need a scapegoat to sacrifice in order to assuage the anger at the chaos he has created at their behest?
“I suggest he reads up on the fate of another thuggish bully-boy just like himself, during a previous regime which had a fondness for social, racial and ethnic cleansing… Nacht der langen Messer [Night of the Long Knives], Herr Duncan Schmitt, and remember the fate of Ernst Rohm?”
For those who aren’t aware, Rohm was a lieutenant of Adolf Hitler who founded the SA (forerunner of the SS). He was executed as a potential rival of Hitler’s as part of the Night of the Long Knives in 1934.
After this performance, there will be plenty of people across the UK sharpening their knives for Iain Duncan Smith.
Like it or not, politics in the UK is far more nuanced today than it has been at any time in the last 100 years. How can it be anything else? All the main political parties are trying to occupy the same, narrow, centre-right ground.
Even so, one man has emerged as the pantomime villain of British politics: Iain Duncan Smith.
ConservativeHome readers regularly vote him into the top slot as the most popular cabinet minister – but it seems that anyone who has ever had dealings with his Department for Work and Pensions has the exact opposite opinion of him. He has been nicknamed IDS, but this blog calls him RTU instead – it stands for ‘Returned To Unit’, a military term for serving soldiers who have failed in officer training and have been returned in disgrace to their original unit (the implication being that his claim of a glittering military career is about as accurate as his claims to have been educated at the University of Perugia and Dunchurch College of Management).
Here at Vox Political, we believe that this man’s tenure at the DWP will go down in history as one of the greatest disasters of British political history – not just recent history, but for all time. It is our opinion that his benefit-cutting policies have done more to accelerate the impoverishment of hard-working British people than the worst recession in the last century could ever have done by itself.
We believe the assessment regime for sickness and disability benefits, over which he has presided, has resulted in so many deaths that it could be considered the worst genocide this country has faced since the Harrowing of the North, almost 1,000 years ago.
That will be his legacy.
On Sunday, he will appear on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show to answer your questions about his work. The show’s Facebook page has invited readers to submit their own questions and this seems an appropriate moment to highlight some of those that have been submitted – but are never likely to be aired; RTU is far too vain to allow hyper-critical questioning to burst his bubble.
Here is our choice of just some questions he won’t be answering:
“Why [has he] decided to cover up the number of suicides due to [his] benefit cuts?” “Why is he killing the elderly and the disabled?” “Does he have a figure (number of deaths) before he accepts a policy might not be working?”
“Universal Jobmatch, Universal Credit, WCA reforms, PIP; are there any policies and projects he has tried to implement that haven’t been a massive shambolic waste of money, causing distress and sanctions to so many people?”
“Would he like to comment on the huge amount of people wrongly sanctioned, and would he like to explain why whistleblowers from the JCP have admitted there are sanction targets?”
“Ask him if he believes a comparison can be drawn between the government’s persecution of the sick, disabled and mentally ill and the ‘Action T4’ instigated by the Nazis in 1939. I am sure the tow-the-line BBC will give him sight of the questions before he gets on the show so he will have time to look it up.”
“People are now waiting months for their appeals to be heard and the meantime their benefits are stopped. What does he expect them to live on? Why [are] he and his Department pursuing this deliberate war against some of our most poor and vulnerable people?”
“Could he comment on the massive amount of money written off due to failures with the Universal Credit?”
“Why are we paying private companies to test disabled and sick people when one phone call to their consultant or GP would provide all relevant details they need?”
“[Does] he have any intention of putting his money where his mouth is, [living] on £53/week, and how does he square that with the £39 on expenses he claimed for breakfast? Half a million people signed the call for him to do so.”
“Why are full time carers who look after loved ones only paid £59.75 a week? Less than JSA, indeed less than any other benefit! they save the tax payers millions, and yet have still been hammered by the changes in housing benefit, council tax benefit and of course the hated bedroom tax.”
“Ask him about the Universal Jobsearch website and the fake jobs on the site. As a jobseeker, this site need[s] better monitoring.”
“Ask him if the bedroom tax was really just a deceitful way to remove all social housing and force people into private rentals for the rich to claim housing benefits paid to claimants.”
“Does he think that paying subsidies to supermarkets and other private companies via welfare benefits because they do not pay well enough is what government should be doing?”
Some of the questioners address Mr… Smith directly:
“Why do you keep testing people with incurable progressive illnesses? Once found unfit to work, [they] never will get any better so to retest is stressful, cruel, and not needed.”
“Why are you telling Jobcentre Plus staff to get ESA claimants and JSA claimants to declare themselves self-employed, then reeling them in with the promise of an extra £20 per week? Is this why the unemployment rate fell last quarter?”
“You say you want the sick off what you call the scrap heap but with few jobs out there, do you mean off the scrap heap into the destitute gutter?”
“Do you feel remotely guilty for the lives you’ve ruined? the lies you’ve told? The dead people on your hands? Do you feel any shame at all that you’ve done all this and more? Do you sleep well at night knowing there are people who can’t feed their children because of you?”
“As a committed Roman Catholic, how does your conscience deal with you supporting and advantaging privileged millionaires while you personally and systematically further impoverish the poor and disadvantaged?”
“Does he feel ashamed to have caused so much suffering, because he flipping well should!”
There were many more questions that were not appropriate for repetition.
To see what he does have to say for himself, tune in to Sunday Politics on BBC1, starting at 11am on March 9 (which is, as you might have guessed, Sunday).
When David Cameron stands up in all his hypocrisy and tells you that tearing apart the basic safety net that guaranteed people would not be left in hunger or destitution is part of his “moral mission”, even die-hard Tories should agree that the country has taken a turn for the worse.
When he defends an administration that has become so punitive that applicants who don’t get it right have to wait without food for months at a time, by claiming he is doing “what is right”, even die-hard Tories should agree that the man who claims he is Prime Minister has diverged from reality.
That is precisely what he has done, and you can bet that the Tory diehards will quietly go along with it because they think it is far better for other people to lose their lives than it is for their government to lose face.
Cameron has been responding after the Catholic Bishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, delivered a vehement attack on the social security “reforms” being forced on the country’s most vulnerable people by Iain Duncan Smith.
In the Daily Telegraph, Cameron smarmed: “Our long-term economic plan for Britain is not just about doing what we can afford, it is also about doing what is right… Nowhere is that more true than in welfare. For me the moral case for welfare reform is every bit as important as making the numbers add up.
“We are in the middle of a long and difficult journey turning our country around,” Cameron said. “That means difficult decisions to get our deficit down, making sure that the debts of this generation are not our children’s to inherit.
“But our welfare reforms go beyond that alone – they are about giving new purpose, new opportunity, new hope – and yes, new responsibility to people who had previously been written off with no chance.
“Seeing these reforms through is at the heart of our long-term economic plan – and it is at the heart too of our social and moral mission in politics today.”
Drivel. Any evidence-based analysis will find the exact opposite. Where are the opportunities in Workfare schemes that pay only benefits, meaning travel expenses alone put claimants out of pocket, and then send jobseekers back to the dole queue so rich companies can profit further by taking on more claimants on the same terms?
How can anyone derive hope from taking responsibility for their job search, when DWP staff at Jobcentre Plus are ordered to ignore their own responsibilities in favour of harsh sanctions for invented infringements of the Jobseeker’s Agreement?
And how is encouraging people to say they are self-employed, even though they have little chance of earning enough to support them and none of enjoying a holiday or a pension, different from writing them off with no chance?
Look at the new employment figures from the Office for National Statistics – the Coalition government has been making a song and dance about them ever since they came out. On the face of it, they seem reliable: In December 2013, 30.15 million people were in work of some kind, up by 396,000 from the same time the previous year; there were 2.34 million unemployed, down 161,000 from December 2012; and the Claimant Count (those on Jobseekers’ Allowance) was 1.22 million in January, down 327,000 from a year earlier.
However, the number of people marked as self-employed has rocketed to a record level, totalling one in seven of the workforce. That’s 4,370,000 – up 150,000 on the previous year. This is extremely suspicious, as the increase in the previous year totalled 25,000 – just one-sixth of this week’s figure.
Some of these people might be genuinely self-employed and making their new business work – but all of them? In an economy where productivity hasn’t increased since the Coalition took office? You’d have to be stupid to believe that.
Assuming the amount of real self-employment has increased in line with economic growth (at 1.9 per cent), that’s an extra 25,475 in 2013, leaving 124,525 in limbo. Are these really self-employed? Or were they told by Jobcentre advisors to say so and claim working tax credits (as we’ve seen in the past), leading to a huge debt when HMRC tells them they have been claiming fraudulently and have been overpaid?
How many of the unemployed have been wiped off the books due to sanctions? We don’t know, because we don’t have figures up to December 2013. We do know that 897,690 sanctions were enforced in the year to September 2013. We don’t know how many were for one month, how many for three months or how many for three years, but we do know that the rate was six per cent of jobseekers per month in the three months to the end of September 2013. Assuming that rate stayed solid, it suggests that 73,200 were off-benefit due to sanctions in December and should be added to the Claimant Count to give a more accurate figure.
How many of the unemployed have been wiped off the books due to Workfare? We don’t know. How many are unemployed but on Universal Credit, which isn’t included in the Claimant Count? We don’t know – 3,610 were on it at the end of November last year, but the DWP has not divided them into those in work and those without.
David Cameron has access to all of this information, and he doesn’t care. He also has access to the mortality figures for claimants of Incapacity Benefit/Employment and Support Allowance, that the DWP has been withholding from the rest of us, probably for fear of sparking an international outcry. He doesn’t care about that either.
His comments are therefore doubly outrageous – not only is he claiming that his Coalition’s changes are having a beneficial effect when the figures demonstrate the opposite, but he is also claiming the moral high ground when his actions are more appropriate to the populace of the Pit.
In terms of his morality, there can be only one description for him and his cronies:
Vox Political is an independent political blog.
We don’t receive any funding other than contributions from readers. Vox Political cannot continue without YOUR help. You can make a one-off donation here:
Alternatively, you can buy the first Vox Political book, Strong Words and Hard Times in either print or eBook format here:
The BBC has reported findings by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, showing that the Coalition government will be less than halfway through its planned spending cuts by the end of the current financial year (March 31).
The organisation said 60 per cent of the cuts were still to come.
This raises a few urgent questions. Firstly: This government was formed on the promise that it would balance the books by 2015, which presupposes that its entire plan for doing so would be in place long before then. We know that this ambitious claim was dismissed after years of failure, but part of the reason for this failure was that George Osborne stopped a recovery that was already taking place, and which would have led to economic growth of 20 per cent by now, if it had been allowed to continue (according to Michael Meacher MP). My question, therefore, is: Have the Conservatives been working to ensure that they would have an excuse to make more cuts, rather than to restore the economy and balance the deficit?
Secondly: We may presume that these further cuts will be inflicted over a period of years (as even the Tories know it is important to enact change gradually, rather than inflict sudden shocks on the economy that could create entirely unforeseen consequences). Are the Coalition parties assuming that they will be re-elected next year, and is it not supremely arrogant of them to believe this, considering the harm they have caused so far?
Thirdly: If the Coalition parties do want to be re-elected, it is clear that they will need to try to bring a majority of voters back on-side. Therefore we may reasonably expect to see all sorts of gifts coming our way over the next year – tax breaks or whatever else they can devise – aimed at increasing the amount of money in our pockets. However, knowing that 60 per cent of the Tory/Lib Dem cuts process is still to come, this means they will want to make even more cuts if they are returned to office. Why would we want to give them our vote, in return for presents they’ll grab back as soon as they’ve got what they want?
Fourthly: Iain Duncan Smith has inflicted £28 billion of cuts on people receiving benefits from his Department for Work and Pensions. If the IFS statement is accurate, then the total amount he’ll want to cut is a staggering £70 billion. If we consider that the amount spent on pensions (more than £100 billion) is safe, this leaves only tiny amounts for all the other benefits supplied by the DWP. Are people currently on Jobseekers’ Allowance to get nothing in the future? What about disabled people getting DLA or PIP? How about all the many, many people on Employment and Support Allowance, including those currently going through the appeal process because of wrong decisions? Mr… Smith might claim that all these benefits are being rolled into Universal Credit, but that won’t happen until 2016 or 2017 according to his own estimates, and the rest of us know that it’s not going to happen at all. Will we have any benefit system left if these cuts continue – or will the Tories try to trick us into buying duff health and employment insurance policies from their friends at Unum instead?
The BBC report said George Osborne wants a budget surplus by 2018-19, but “additional spending, population growth and extra demands on the NHS meant more cuts were needed”. This statement is not supported by any source material and we may take it this is a further sign of BBC right-wing bias.
The additional spending was made necessary because of unintended consequences of the cuts – the Tories got their sums wrong. Population growth, if due to the EU immigration that everyone complains about, will have led to a net growth in the economy as it has been proved that migrant workers from the European Union contribute more to the Treasury than they ever take out – so this is not a cause of increased spending. If the indigenous British population has been growing faster than expected, let us remember that Child Benefit is to be restricted to the first two children in a family (Cameron has denied it so it must be true) and therefore any further growth in individual families will have no bearing on the government’s bank balance. Extra demands on the NHS are a thorny subject as the Coalition promised to inject billions of pounds into the health service but no evidence has yet appeared to show that it has. Since this money was promised many years ago, it should have been included in national budgets and should not be a burden now.
The IFS also reports that there is no evidence of a housing bubble in the UK, as a result of Osborne’s ‘Help To Buy’ scheme. This was introduced last year, when Osborne realised that his austerity programme had failed and resorted to a Keynesian ‘pump-priming’ scheme to boost the housing market. Fears that this would lead to a debt-fuelled ‘bubble’ made commenters like myself cautious about the plan.
However, if there are no signs of a debt-fuelled bubble, then we should consider this to be proof that Keynesian economics was always the way forward and austerity has led us up an economic dead-end for the past four years.
This means none of Osborne’s ridiculous cuts were necessary (barring a few to eliminate waste and corruption – but under a Conservative-led regime we have no evidence that these took place and every reason to believe the opposite to be true. Look at the current ‘cronyism’ row over the appointment of Conservative ‘yes’-people to senior quango posts).
It also means the government and the right-wing media have been lying to you for four long years – and will continue doing so in self-justifying stridence for another 14 months to come.
Let them talk.
But don’t ever let them convince you their cuts are necessary.
Vox Political won’t inflict any cuts on you! But we can’t deliver value for money without funds. That’s why YOUR help is vital. You can make a one-off donation here:
Alternatively, you can buy the first Vox Political book, Strong Words and Hard Times in either print or eBook format here:
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.