Saving Our Safety Net fact of the week: £12 billion benefit cuts after the election
At the start of the year I realised I was losing track of all the social security cuts that have been made over the past four years, so I started some research that ended up as a report, Keeping Up With The Cuts. I found that, even if I excluded small cuts, pensions cuts, cuts made by local authorities when local provision has been devolved and changes linked to new employment schemes like the Work Programme I still had a list of 43 cuts and ‘reforms’ that reduce claimants’ entitlements. And what a list – it includes the changes to uprating that have literally taken billions from people in poverty, the Benefit Cap, the Bedroom Tax and massive cuts to benefits for disabled people and children. So it’s easy to imagine that the worst is over, the Government has made all the cuts they need to.
But that is far from the truth. If the current government is re-elected in May we can expect another £12 billion in social security cuts in the first two years. That isn’t a biased projection from someone who doesn’t like the current incumbents. My source is George Osborne himself in his New Year speech on the economy. Here’s what he said:
I can tell you today that on the Treasury’s current forecasts, £12 billion of further welfare cuts are needed in the first two years of next Parliament. That’s how to reduce the deficit without even faster cuts to government departments, or big tax rises on people.
Just in case you thought they might have forgotten about this, the Chancellor and the Prime Minister have both given some indication of what they have in mind. At last month’s Conservative conference Mr Osborne said that he plans to freeze working age benefits for two years (£3.2 billion taken from desperately poor people) and a fortnight ago Mr Cameron said he plans to reduce spending on benefits by £1 billion by cutting the Benefit Cap – remember, 73 per cent of the victims of the Benefit Cap are children – and taking away under-21 year olds’ right to Housing Benefit. Horrific – but these measures only add up to £4.2 billion, about a third of what they plan to cut.
£12 billion more benefit cuts will make this country unrecognisable. The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission has warned that we are headed towards a “permanently divided society”. The cuts we have already been through will make it extraordinarily difficult to stop child poverty growing, as the Commission reports
… even world-beating performance on employment levels, hours and wages would not enable the child poverty targets to be hit given current public spending plans and the current design of the tax and benefit system.
These extra cuts will bring on a winter of poverty and deprivation that will remind us of Victorian times. Future generations will struggle to understand how we could be so harsh to our weakest and most vulnerable people.