From the TUC

Local benefits (again)

28 Sep 2010, by in Labour market, Society & Welfare

Richard Kemp, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the Local Government Association, has written to Danny Alexander, calling for the ‘localisation’ of the benefit system. Cllr Kemp, who represents an inner-city ward in Liverpool, argues that making Councils responsible for benefit levels and eligibility would be an improvement because:

We would be able to use money effectively by applying appropriate levels to people and linking benefit packages to training and regeneration resources. This will get people back into temporary work in the short term but re-energise communities in the long term.

Cllr Kemp also calls for local ‘welfare to work’ pilots and for local authorities to be made responsible for the administration of benefits:

We would reduce worklessness by reducing the fear of benefit traps and reduce costs; by providing a ‘Total Place’ solution for benefits we could cut out many costs of administration and employment.

This is not a new call, though the last leading local government figure to make it was Lord Hanningfield, who, as Conservative leader of Essex Council, made it one of the most ideologically right-wing in the country.

The problem is that this call is made at a time when the central government has prioritised cuts and deficit reduction. This means that the Treasury is very unlikely to pay for higher benefit rates in London and other places where the cost of living is higher. What we would be far more likely to see is rates being cut in places like Wales – and, quite possibly, Liverpool – where it may be claimed that it is possible to get by on a lower income.

This may actually be Cllr Kemp’s intention – that could be what he means by “appropriate levels”. It would also make sense of his claim that devolution would help tackle benefit traps.

There are only two ways to deal with benefit traps – one is to raise the net income of people in low paid jobs or working reduced hours, the other is to cut their out of work income. Egalitarians and anti-poverty campaigners support the former and oppose the latter because out of work incomes are already so low they force people into extreme poverty.

Cllr Kemp, however, believes that benefits are a “waste of public sector money” and that they “entrench inactivity and inhibit enterprise” – I wonder whether he would be likely to vote for adequate JSA rates if his council was made responsible for the decision.

2 Responses to Local benefits (again)

  1. Clare Fernyhough
    Sep 29th 2010, 5:19 pm

    I don’t suppose anyone will read this, but I’m so angry I have to say something. I am not belonging to any political party but I was also humbled and encouraged by the TUC conference and watched many days of it; though most speakers were ordinary working class I enjoyed the heartfelt calls for support on issues that matter to every one of us. In contrast note the mostly empty hall throughout the Lib conference; I was so bored I switched off 15 minutes into the first day!

    As regards Lord H above, there is a lot more going on here as we all well know. I presume the above means that all ‘JobCentres’ will be shut and many thousands of staff lost, and the work transferred over to the housing and council tax benefit staff, and no doubt with hardly any extra funding to employ enough suitably qualified staff to cope. Remember also that the Gov want many local government services to be available online, no doubt to get rid of even more front line staff.

    We already know there is no extra funding for anyone to be able to live in the inner zones in London starting April 2011 and even in my poor area the LHA rates do not now match the local rents even in the worst places in town.

    As you say above, poverty traps occur because basic wages do not cover living costs that is unless you have a troop of 5 kids and the accompanying tax credits and working tax credits to go along with it. Trouble is, the tax credits dry up when the kids grow up and that low paid job that you were convinced into no longer pays; neither does JSA: now THAT is what I call a poverty trap. Oh and don’t bother getting any ‘new skills’ or a degree because you’ll soon find out that when you’re 5 years down the line, the jobs no longer exist or if they do there are hundreds of people with the ‘right background’ going for the same job.

    No, what does work is a living wage: forget £7.50 an hour ‘Ed’; we’re way past that. £10 minimum may just suffice after you’ve paid a over third of it in housing and council tax.

    But oh no, the CBI won’t be having any of that anytime soon because of their profits. When the minimum wage came in (was it around £3 or something?), I was gardening, housekeeping and taking in ironing (after I got ill I did a degree and found it almost impossible to find enough suitable work with the right conditions for my disability and now tradgically, after all the hard work I’m on the scrap heap; not enough for the government of course, I’ll lose my home due to new HB rules). Even for this menial job, I was at that time paid between £5 – £6 an hour. I always said that minimum wage was an absolute disgrace, but at least it increased some peoples’ wages.

    The CBI warned then that the minimum wage would put them out of business, but it didn’t did it? From that starting point up until a couple of years ago business was booming. Are they so stupid not to think that paying a living wage will mean that people have more money to spend on their goods, so that in turn they will afford the higher wages? No, they’re not stupid, they would rather charge higher and higher prices for private and public rents, services, goods etc and pocket the profits themselves, just like the banks that profit the difference in the interest rate when the bank ‘inter lending’ amount dropped.

    Throughout history it is detestable business practices like these that have perpetuated poverty, slavery and the new slavery of outsourcing and our UK warehouses. The CBI would have us believe that we lost our industry due to unreasonable pay demands and then the minimum wage, but the industries around here in the 80’s already paid much more than minimum wage: they have given away our skills, quality of goods and branding to other nations for pure profit, simple as.

    I appreciate all that people have done to try to fight this, but now all of the advances of the last 100 years for the poor and the working poor will be wiped out in just a short period of five years, but lets face it, this has been going on a lot longer and has been a slow slide back into deprivation: now we’ll be truly like the ‘global village’; abject poverty on the one hand and ‘those that have’ or just the rich on the other. Strike, remonstrate, and demonstrate as people and organisations will, with attacks it seems on every social group (not including the rich of course) the poor will have no one to fight their corner; just read the comments the public already make on the Guardian site or God forbid the Mail and other such papers and you’ll find that a good majority of people could not care less that people like me, my 86 year old neighbour, or my two carers will be homeless.

    All have worked hard all their lives and whatever you think about the poor, they are the people who have scrubbed your loos, cleaned your streets and hospitals, etc etc and they do not deserve to live in poverty or lose their homes just because they have fallen on hard times due to the banking crisis, and especially when most of them work anyway. Even ‘Merve the Swerve’ didn’t swerve that one and put the blame well and truly where it laid.

    I am ranting here, but on my estate people are in absolute despair. I cannot begin to tell you the effect the announcement of HB rules and the ‘universal benefit’ rates have had on people. We already had next to nothing and most improvements we have made in our homes have been in ‘sweat, tears and blood’ at OUR expense, but even what little we have is being taken away: too good for the likes of us now eh? So our social housing can be sold off to the private sector to house all the people who were priced out of the housing market, but could afford the newly inflated rents once that happens. I am having constant nightmares and my friends (who work) are stressed and depressed; translate that around the country, if that is, people are fully aware of what is about to happen.

    Some friends who own their own homes have said that we should be made to give them up! They say in any case I will never be forced out, but they forget that as a young woman in the 80’s I lived through similar changes in benefit rules during the last Con government for those who worked and the introduction of poll tax, which despite all the protests, the Con government proceeded with. At that time I had a 5 year old and a new born and to make up the shortfall in HB I had to work nights, my husband days, but I also still had to look after the kids in the day, and that continued for many years. It was a nightmare, and even then we could only afford one meal a day, no heating, I had no underwear, one skirt, one pair of shoes with holes in and no coat. I was constantly ill with bronchitis and other infections. We eventually had to get into debt just to buy a few basic necessities and cover living costs as I actually could not have survived through it, debt that 25 years later, I am still paying off!!

    No doubt I will look back fondly at those times when I’m sleeping under a bridge by night and being a bag lady by day. I won’t have to live under a bridge anyway as one of my overcrowded homeowner friends has said I could put up a tent on some scrap land they own in the middle of no where. Do you think I’ll still get my care package if I’m living in a tent? Ah, but I forgot, that’s probably going to be cut anyway. Thankfully, tent or bridge, with our winters I won’t be around long enough to see the real damage that is done to this country. Think I’m joking? Some of my girlfriends have even talked seriously about where we could sleep rough already or going into prostitution so that they can afford to keep their homes and it breaks my heart to hear such hard working decent people talk in such ways: I could never do that could I? Perhaps Lord H would like to pay me a visit in my new residence…..

    Great Britain Rules OK?

  2. Isa Hedrick
    Oct 30th 2010, 5:26 pm

    This valuable jumperoo is best! We have the following any time the fuesen has been 5 several months classic, although your dog was basically a little too little recycle online, she or he meet included in the padded seat which has a rolled-up blanket like a booster seating and several big catalogs within his particular base. He or she soon matured involved with it in addition to was diving for instance a seasoned. He could be at present eight calendar months classic nonetheless really likes the following.