Tag Archives: welfare

Tory welfare plans are anathema to Liberal Democrats. We should not miss any opportunity to condemn them

I suspect most Liberal Democrats will have what we in Scotland call “the dry boak”when they watched Iain Duncan Smith and George Osborne outlining plans to impose even more cuts on those people who can least afford to take the hit. A two year freeze for those who have least, including those who are working. Restricting benefits for young people. The benefits cap was a bad idea in the first place, but reducing it further is really wrong. But by far the most egregious of the measures announced yesterday was Iain Duncan Smith’s plan to introduce benefit cards instead of cash to bank accounts. Talk about illiberal. Talk about creating stigma.

What is very clear is that all these things would be being done now if the Liberal Democrats were not there to stop them. It’s a horrible glimpse into single party Tory rule. We can’t subject people to that.

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A bit of a howler in the Tories’ press lines…

Sky News have managed to get hold of a Tory briefing document which gives its MPs and media spokespeople the messages they want to emerge from their Conference. It was drawn up in the wake of the Reckless defection and Newmark resignation. Things drawn up in haste can often cause more problems than they resolve and this is no exception. Take, for example, the bit where they say that they are not stating red lines in coalition negotiations before, er, stating one:

Q. Is policy X a red line for future coalition negotiations?

A. We’re not going to answer hypothetical questions about red lines for coalition negotiations. Our aim is to win an outright majority at the next election so we secure a better future for Britain and that’s what we’re working towards.

Q. But what about your Europe referendum? You’ve said that’s a red line?

A. As our commitment to have a referendum would have to be fulfilled by a specific date after the next election, we think it is right in this one instance to confirm it’s a red line.

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Opinion: 19th September – now what?

imageLooking ahead: It’s 19th September, and Scotland has voted “No” to independence. Thank goodness for that! The uncertainty is over. The people of Scotland will continue to have their say in how the whole of Britain is run; will still use the pound (and still have their say in how it is managed); will, without the need for difficult negotiations, still be part of the EU and still have the whole of NATO ready to protect it; will still be both British and Scottish, without having to choose one or other; will still have representation on the UN security council. And the Union will not have to endure the pain of partition – which a century of evidence from countries like Yugoslavia, Sudan, India and even Ireland tells us can be very great indeed.

The Union has survived, but it was close, and there’s still a problem. Nearly half of Scotland’s population is so unhappy with the way that it is governed that it was willing to turn its back on the benefits of being part of a long-lasting and successful union. Clearly something needs to change, if this widespread discontent is to be contained.

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Fairer Society part 3: Making hard choices to end poverty

Christian Aid's Poverty can be eradicated posterThis is the third and final article in my series on why and how Liberal Democrats can claim the social justice agenda which has been abandoned by both Labour and the Conservatives. The first part is here and the second here. I argued we should abandon the notion of helping only the “deserving” poor, which defines our current welfare system, in favour of two new principles to define our approach to welfare:

  1. The role of the welfare state is to guarantee for every person

photo by: HowardLake
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Fairer Society Part 1: Only the Liberal Democrats are left to stand up for fairness

Benefits-welfareOn Thursday we saw Ed Miliband deliver his big policy speech on welfare, introducing his ‘youth tax’ in an attempt to be tougher on the Tories than welfare. In the process he proved that Labour, not content with failing to manage the economy properly in their last time in government, have given up on any idea of fairness or social justice for their next time in government.

Interestingly, the policy he announced had been reported on twice already by newspapers, the Sun and the Telegraph, over the course of the past year …

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Indiscriminate and insensitive overuse of benefit sanctions needs to be tackled by Liberal Democrat ministers

Benefits-welfareI came across this article about some of the circumstances which had led to sanctions being imposed on benefit claimants. Everything in the article is sourced, but I also take it seriously because it resonates with real life examples that I have heard about.

The coalition has dramatically increased the scale of withdrawal of benefit for infringing rules. A claimant can be sanctioned for not apparently looking hard enough for work, for not attending job centre interviews or for turning down job offers. The minimum period you can lose your benefit …

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Letter from the Leader special: The Party of In

nick clegg euNick Clegg today emailed everyone who had signed up to the Why I am IN campaign on the eve of the ALDE congress which takes place in London over the next 3 days. He took the opportunity to explain why he’d signed the Liberal Democrats up to the benefits changes announced by David Cameron today. The tone is very different from Cameron’s bombastic words today which seem to have confused agreed coalition policy with the Conservative desire to limit EU migration post 2015. Liberal Democrat members will no doubt

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Andrew Stunell MP writes…Keep free EU movement and end the dodges

I signed up to the ‘European project’ a decade before I joined the Liberals. It was an instinctive reaction to working on refugee resettlement schemes in Germany and Austria. Even in the early ’60s there were still a million “displaced persons” living in camps in western Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War. That should remain a stark reminder to complacent euro-sceptics that spending time grizzling about straight bananas risks a lot more than a million or two British jobs and our country’s shrinkage to a world micro power. That’s what makes being the Party of “In” a …

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A reply to Matt on welfare by Lib Dem ministers Norman Lamb and Steve Webb: “We believe in standing up for the vulnerable”

This week, Lib Dem Voice published a deeply personal account by one of our readers, Matt: I need the Liberal Democrats to stand up for me when Conservative ministers denigrate me. It was read by many in the party, including two Lib Dem ministers in the Coalition — Norman Lamb MP (Department of Health) and Steve Webb MP (Department for Work and Pensions) — who have co-authored the following response.

lamb and webb

When we read the article posted on Lib Dem Voice on Wednesday by Matt, setting out very personally the distressing and painful experiences he has faced over the past few years in trying to access the welfare and health support he needs, we felt it was important that we respond properly to what he had said.

As Liberal Democrats, we instinctively understand that divisive rhetoric is both unhelpful and inaccurate, and for both of these reasons we should all remain constantly vigilant in challenging those who use this type of language to denigrate any member of our society. We believe in standing up for the vulnerable and providing support to those who are facing personal difficulties in their lives.

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Opinion: I need the Liberal Democrats to stand up for me when Conservative ministers denigrate me

I want to share with you how I feel when Conservative government ministers talk about welfare claimants in disparaging terms. I hope that I can bring a bit of understanding about the problems people like me face.

Before I begin, I should give a trigger warning for rape, self harm and sexual abuse. The details are upsetting but I feel you need to know the whole story.

I was raped and abused as a child every single week for 12 years. On numerous occasions I would wake to find myself being raped and suffocated by my abuser, who was later imprisoned for …

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Might some of the welfare changes be a little more helpful to people than Osborne made out?

Conservative Conference week is never an easy time to be a Liberal Democrat. The Conservative in its natural habitat is not a pretty sight to those of us who cherish the principles at the heart of the preamble to our constitution, of liberty, equality and community, of freeing people from poverty, ignorance or conformity. The words Tory leaders use to rally their troops give us that joyless feeling that is known in Scotland as the dry boak.

But, you know, the Tory conference is what the Cabinet table would be like if it weren’t for the Liberal Democrats in Government. …

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Lessons of Coalition: what do the Lib Dems need to learn from the first 3 years?

ldv coalition lessonsWe’re more than three years in. What started in the Rose Garden has turned into a bed of thorns. The quieter summer weeks are as good a time as any to reflect on the key lessons the Lib Dems need to learn from this stint in government. Who knows? We may have a second chance after 2015: best to plan ahead now to avoid the obvious pitfalls we fell into this time (tuition fees, NHS Bill, secret courts) as well as to max-out the successes we’ve delivered (tax-cuts for the low-paid, the ‘pupil premium’, new apprenticeships).

Over the next few days, we’ll be running a daily feature, ‘Lessons of Coalition’ to which those of us who contribute to LibDemVoce will be adding. But we welcome reader contributions as well. The word limit is no more than 450 words, and please focus on just one lesson you think the party needs to learn. Simply email your submission to [email protected] Here’s mine for starters…

Stronger policy development and campaigning on issues that matter to the public (AKA where’s our liberal equivalent of the benefits cap?)

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Interview: Nick Clegg on the economy, welfare, Cleggism and the “superb” Kung Fu Panda films

CleggWe brought you a taste of the Voice’s exclusive interview with the deputy prime minister yesterday. Here is the full interview, covering the economy, welfare reform, pensions, Cleggism, our approach to the manifesto, Kung Fu Panda and Clegg’s cooking.

Nick Thornsby: What’s your take on where the economy is now, three and a bit years into the coalition?

Nick Clegg: My overall assessment is that it is healing. There are signs of confidence slowly seeping back into the sinews of the economy. Some of the latest data on consumer confidence are better …

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Well done, Ed Balls. He’s opened up space for a proper welfare debate. Lib Dems now need to claim that space.

Ed Balls has done us all a favour. His announcement last week that if he were Chancellor he would put a stop to winter fuel allowances for well-off pensioners means Labour has joined the Lib Dems in saying we need to focus the welfare budget where it’s needed most, not keep on re-distributing from the worse off to the better off in the name of universalism. It’s why I chose him as my 38th Liberal Hero.

And yesterday he was at it again, highlighting quite how much of the welfare budget the state pension represents — some £74 …

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Welfare reform: what should the Lib Dems do?

This much I think I know… Cuts to the overall welfare budget are inescapable: it accounts for too large a chunk of of public spending for it to be immune — certainly if the NHS, schools and overseas aid budgets are to be protected at the same time as spending is reduced.

These cuts would be happening whichever party was in power, though doubtless the precise methods would differ. The IFS’s verdict in 2010 on what they termed Labour’s “fiscal drift” was stark: “By the eve of the financial crisis … the UK one of the largest structural …

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The Philpott case: at last, a reminder of the reality

justice thirlwall phlpott caseThe debate over the Philpott case has raged all week, but mostly at a tangent to the reality of the case.

Thanks to Grace Dent’s stellar column in today’s Independent, I’ve finally read through Mrs Justice Thirlwall’s summing up. It’s concise, shrewd, plain spoken, unsparing: no legalese, just clear sense.

It returns this case to where it belongs: an individual story of one man’s obsessive compulsion to dominate and possess all those around him, in particular ‘his’ women. It’s well worth reading the whole judgment in full.

However, there are three sections I wanted to highlight…

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The welfare debate and the age of the trollemic

I decided to invent a new word yesterday:

It’s the welfare debate that’s prompted it, but it could be any other topic on a given week.

daily mail philpott front pageYesterday saw the Daily Mail publish a typically sensationalist front page blaming the welfare state for the tragedy of six children being killed by their parents. On Monday the Mirror shouted ‘Shameful’, with a cartoon showing Thatcher, Cameron, Osorne and Clegg banging in the final nail of a coffin marked ‘RIP Welfare’.

Each is exaggerating to make their own point. Both are gross over-statements: trollemics.

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Keep the faith: Liberal Democrats are doing good things in Government, not that you’d know it from today’s headlines

Liberal Democrats have taken a pounding across the Labour supporting media over the past few days. Article after soundbite condemns the welfare reforms which come into effect from now. It’s been a clever, co-ordinated onslaught which seems aimed at demoralising Liberal Democrat members and activists rather than opposing the changes themselves. After all, I haven’t heard Ed Miliband promise to repeal any of them. And we have to remember that it was the Labour Government who introduced Local Housing Allowance – the Bedroom Tax of the private sector.

Where have the Liberal Democrat MPs and key figures been?

That Labour would use …

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++ Government wins vote on Benefits Uprating Bill; 6 Lib Dem MPs rebel

There were no serious doubts the Coalition Government’s Benefits Uprating Bill — pegging increases in welfare payments at a below-inflation 1%, the same as public sector wage rises, for the next three years — would be approved. The only question was the size of majority and how many Lib Dems would rebel (I’ve been keeping a running tally here this afternoon).

There were two votes tonight. First, a Labour amendment to the Bill, defeated by 321 votes to 262, a government majority of 59. Then a vote on the unamended second reading, which the government won by 324 votes to …

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Opinion: The Welfare Uprating Bill is a mistake; this is not economic liberalism

I was saddened to hear during the Autumn Statement that increases in many benefits would be capped at 1% for the next three years, particularly because I was in total agreement with David Laws when he opposed a similar policy last year. I was also disappointed that after months of party figures grandstanding about any welfare cuts being contingent on reformed property taxes, no higher council tax bands were announced.

Abandoning indexation for benefits does not just affect them in the year that benefits are not indexed. To use Job Seeker’s Allowance as an example, if inflation is 3% …

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In praise of people with drawn curtains in the morning

Night time workers. Work at night, sleep at day. That’s not being a scrounger. Shame so many Conservatives and so-called populists crudely label them all as scroungers with their blunderbuss rhetoric for having the temerity to draw the curtains at home when they’re sleeping after a long session at work.

UPDATE: In other curtain commentary news… Jennie has highlighted in the comments her own post. Here’s the link to it; the comments are well worth a read for a mix of the serious and the very funny. And here’s an Olympian

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There are no easy choices when it comes to reducing the deficit

George Osborne’s statement that senior Liberal Democrats have agreed in principle to a further £10bn of welfare cuts in 2015-16 has prompted a strong reaction from many party members and a TV rebuttal from Nick Clegg.

But the issue is one worth pausing on, for it raises some important questions for Liberal Democrats.

Starting at the beginning, the first question raised is how we wish to close the deficit that will now exist in the first years of the next Parliament following the Chancellor’s decision in last year’s autumn statement to push back the period in which the

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Nick Clegg says no to Tory plans for more welfare cuts

Newspapers have been reporting for months that the Liberal Democrats were not prepared to sign up to Tory plans for £10 billion of welfare cuts in a spending review that would draw up plans for spending into the next Parliament. Today’s Independent says that Nick Clegg himself will ensure that this Government only produces spending plans for 2015-16. The electorate will then decide in the 2015 election whether they want to pursue further cuts in welfare or a heavier burden of tax on the wealthy.

 The report says;

The Liberal Democrats’ opposition means the review will have to be watered down. Before the

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Opinion: What’s wrong with the Welfare State?

Last Saturday the Social Liberal Forum met for its 2012 conference. Being in a centre-right Coalition with the Conservatives has not lead to an abandonment of our centre-left principles. Our achievements in Government represent a broader party ethos of our social democratic belief in the Welfare State. However, instead of evolving with the times, the Welfare State stands rigid and unreflective of the world we live in today. For example, our nation is getting older: 10 million people in the UK

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Nick Clegg needs to condemn Cameron’s welfare plans in the strongest language imaginable

Many Liberal Democrats will have been choking on their Sunday Corn Flakes yesterday as they read, with horror, David Cameron’s plans to slash benefits even further than this year’s Welfare Reform Bill. If he had his way, there would be no Housing Benefit payable to anyone under 25. The critical part of the reports is, however, this sentence:

Downing Street said they were Conservative plans for after the next general election.

That’s all right then. This rubbish isn’t going to happen on our watch.

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Opinion: Crisis in our social care system, a personal memoir

There is a crisis in our social care system and it needs addressing as a matter of urgency.

I made a public call for cross party talks on social care following an interview on BBC Radio Berkshire last Autumn.

The interview came about because I started a campaign, ‘Crusading for Carers’, aimed at highlighting the plight of carers.

During that interview I was asked what I’d like politicians to do about the growing crisis in our social care system. I was aware of the Dilnot Report and of the cross party talks that took place prior to the General Election so I called for them to …

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Laws advises Clegg: oppose Tories’ “arbitrary and vindictive” benefits cuts

The Financial Times this weekend reported what it labelled ‘one of the fiercest and most fascinating political battles of the year’ — a battle which looks set to pitch David Laws and Nick Clegg against George Osborne and the Labour leadership.

The issue concerns the amount by which the Coalition should increase benefits: based on September’s inflation figure, this should be 5.2%. The Tories are pushing for a below-inflation settlement, but Mr Laws — co-editor of The Orange Book, and firmly identified as an economic liberal — is urging the Lib Dems to reject such a move:

Mr Laws, considered

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Rolling news from conference: Saturday morning

Richard Kemp summates on motion, asking people also to back both amendments; i.e. cooperation rather confrontation to improve bill. Some MPs vote for amendment 1, some abstain. Amendment overwhelmingly carried. As is amendment 2. Lines 6-15 deleted from motion, amended motion carried. All MPs can spot voted for.

Evan Harris summates on amendment 1. “It is unusual for me to summate on a debate where there have been no speeches against my amendment”. Says government ministers must work hard to change the bill radically. Amendment 1 lays out how it should be improved – and Liberal Democrats in government “should follow …

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What the think tanks are saying: The IFS on the Universal Credit

The Welfare Reform Bill was introduced to Parliament on the 17th February. It involves the biggest changes to the welfare system in at least 20 years, probably a lot longer. It includes the Universal Credit, intended to significantly reduce the poverty trap, by making it clearer to those on benefits that they would be better off in work.

A month ago, the IFS published “Universal Credit: much to welcome, but impact on incentives mixed”. Well worth reading. Here is a brief overview of what they say:

  • benefits will remain the same as under the present system

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