#Labstain: Labour’s mass indifference to the Welfare Bill

labstainspineYesterday, all but 48 Labour MPs abstained on government proposals to save £12bn from the welfare bill, in particular from the working age poor. This dithering follows 5 years of vitriol directed at Liberal Democrats over measures that did not go this far.

For five years I was constantly told by local Labour councillors that the government was assaulting the poor and vulnerable. Words like ‘evil‘ were used to describe the so-called bedroom tax – a measure which did indeed cause us regret not least due to its retrospective application (without which it would have been no different to the private rented sector Bedroom Tax that Labour had introduced). But now we have a majority Conservative government slashing tax credits, lowering the benefit cap, and withdrawing benefits from 3rd and subsequent children, and the Labour Party is falling over itself to agree. These measures are far more arbitrary than the bedroom tax – which was at least an attempt to deal with underoccupancy in social housing – and are bound to increase child poverty.

labstain184To be fair the dithering isn’t all new – remember that Ed Miliband took some time to decide to oppose the Bedroom Tax in the first place. Nonthelesss there is a breakneck U-turn going on here – from the position that the last government went much too far in cutting welfare, to the current position, that the last government didn’t go nearly far enough.

Perhaps this is just a sign that the 35% strategy is over and Labour is finally thinking about trying to win votes from the Conservatives. Being ‘evil’ for the greater good? The problem is that with 48 rebels, the voters are not going to buy it. Maybe a Labour government with a majority of 50+ could be tough on welfare, but we are a long way from there.

Labour need, as do we and every other party, a reputation for being prudent with public money, for being pro-aspiration, and for sound economic policy. Labstain position
But pick battles that you can win, and pick your targets according to your values. By picking on the working age poor you are showing a lack of values without convincing anyone of your credibility. The £12bn figure was not one the Tories ever expected to have to find – they expected to have to negotiate on it – and so even they had to be creative – raiding Housing Revenue Accounts, and an un-Tory boost to the minimum wage. There no need to lend that figure any legitimacy.

Contrast with our policy of £3.5bn of welfare savings targetted at the better off. Credible and decent.

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* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017, is a councillor in Sheffield and is Tuesday editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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59 Comments

  • #LabStain – brilliant! Works on many levels.

    The sight of so many Labour MPs abstaining on a measure that the LibDems blocked wheels in government, after those same MPs previously spent 5 years hurling the most vitriolic rhetoric at LibDems for their “wicked assault on the poor and vulnerable” … Wow. Just. Wow. I’m speechless, and on the verge of puking at the same time. The hypocrisy is unmeasurable.

  • John Roffey 21st Jul '15 - 5:53pm

    @ Joe Otten

    “Yesterday, all but 48 Labour MPs abstained on government proposals to save £12bn from the welfare bill, in particular from the working age poor. This dithering follows 5 years of vitriol directed at Liberal Democrats over measures that did not go this far.”

    Yes, a point that the SNP have been raising time and again.

    I suspect the Labour Party’s tactics are more related to not having an elected leader as yet. Rather than take a strong line on anything but the most obvious injustices – they would rather be non-commital at this point in time – to allow the new leader to set the tone on the bills second reading – by which time they should have a new leader in place.

    Having said that – it does demonstrate what a shambles the party is in – that it takes them 4 months to select a new leader

  • David Pollard 21st Jul '15 - 6:04pm

    The mainstream media are ignoring the LibDem position on this and other matters. We need a massive social media campaign to get the message over and shame the BBC among others. And welcome disillusioned Labour supporters into our ranks

  • Christopher Haigh 21st Jul '15 - 6:15pm

    We studied a book called ‘Cry the Beloved Country’ ,(relating to the despair at the situation in South Africa) for the GCE English Literarure course in 1968. At that time the Labour Party was stuffed full of greats like Harold Wilson, Roy Jenkins , Manny Shinwell and Shirley Williams who empathised with the ordinary worker. Who have they now other than Jeremy Corbyn to do so ? We need a new book entitled ‘Cry the Beloved Labour Party’!

  • Little Jackie Paper 21st Jul '15 - 6:23pm

    ‘By picking on the working age poor you are showing a lack of values without convincing anyone of your credibility. The £12bn figure was not one the Tories ever expected to have to find – they expected to have to negotiate on it – and so even they had to be creative – raiding Housing Revenue Accounts, and an un-Tory boost to the minimum wage. There no need to lend that figure any legitimacy.’

    First off, where does this idea that the Tories never wanted to have to find £12bn come from? It’s getting trotted out an awful lot. But to my mind that’s the number they meant all along and I see nothing to suggest otherwise.

    More generally however I am astonished that this point about the nature of the fiscal consolidation has not been a source of more comment. We do not have across the board cuts – some areas are seeing very generous treatment indeed. In a couple of months’ time we will be spending (well…borrowing) £2bn for ‘winter fuel’ payments. The triple lock pension looks very expensive indeed – particularly at a time of minimal inflation. All of these protections plainly imply deeper cuts elsewhere. That can’t go on forever.

    If Osborne is wondering why deficit reduction has been slower than he intended he could do worse to look at the how protecting certain big-spending areas affects the deficit. The article talks about, ‘Maybe a Labour government with a majority of 50+ could be tough on welfare, but we are a long way from there.’ Being tough on welfare is one thing – being tough on the parts of welfare and spending hitherto protected is the real question. Unless of course deficit reduction is not the priority?

    For all the politicking, this is the question that all (stress, all) parties need, in my view, to grasp. All parties appeared to offer protections to certain areas for reasons that had minimal economic justification. The political justifications we can speculate on. So by all means criticise Labour – but let’s be clear that the issue they are ducking is more or less the one that everyone else is ducking.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 21st Jul '15 - 6:31pm

    @ John Roffey,

    “anything but the most obvious injustices…”

    Given the number of working poor who are going to lose £1,000 per annum or more, you might have to define ‘most obvious injustices’.

    I have to say though, so much for Labour encouraging and supporting hard-working families…

  • John Roffey 21st Jul '15 - 6:50pm

    Mark Valladares 21st Jul ’15 – 6:31pm

    “Given the number of working poor who are going to lose £1,000 per annum or more, you might have to define ‘most obvious injustices’.”

    Personally I am totally against virtually every measure in the bill as I believe it is based on the false premise that austerity needs to be further increased [more tax should be collected from the multinationals instead] – but the range of potential leaders from a Blairite to an outright left- winger – does leave a great deal of doubt as to what in the bill will be objected to and what will be agreed with by their new leader.

  • Children cant vote, therefore Labour dont care.

  • This is indicative of Labour’s fault line. They are reliant on left leaning people and low income households, for votes. but are too frightened of the press and TV pundits to make any kind of stand on their behalf. Very weak leadership from Harriet Harman and a headless chicken run from Andy Burnham It’s why they lost Scotland. What I found interesting is that some Tories must have abstained.

  • The trouble is Joe that people are not listening. As you yourself found out in such brutal fashion at the General Election its going to be a while before people do and that’s very sad. The Conservatives and SNP appear to be the only game in town.

  • George Potter 21st Jul '15 - 8:35pm

    @Glenn

    The Tory abstentions were a clever move by the Tory whips – they sent just enough of their MPs to vote for the bill to match the total number of opposition MPs. That way critics of Labour can, rightly, say that if all the Labour MPs had voted against the bill then it would have been defeated. Since some Labour MPs were bound to abstain this was a very clever bit of troublemaking by the Tory whips.

  • As a Labour voter, it seems to me that Labour’s ineptitude and hypocrisy on this is equalled only by the Lib Dems’ own hypocrisy and cynical opportunism. What a great time to be a Tory!

    Just a few months ago you were slating Labour for opposing benefit cuts, now you are slating them for (partly) not opposing them. Nobody will ever take the Lib Dems seriously on this issue ever again – and the way things are going, we might soon be saying the same thing about Labour. I’ve already started looking at houses in Scotland.

  • At least the LDs have been consistent, and hopefully on the road to recovery now – Labour seems to be heading for one of its periodic major breakdowns and I suspect the Tories have simply yet to fall apart. The labour shambles is laughable, and – and as always – their hypocrisy staggering!

  • As a Party we have to be careful when looking to make quick political points against Labour on this issue. We, as a Party, have yet to set out a credible economic policy that looks at how to control the rising cost of welfare, especially as pensioners are the biggest recipients & take the highest proportion of the welfare budget. Any social & economic policy has to consider where savings can be made without looking to introduce means testing pension benefits. As the “grey” vote is by far the largest voting block in general elections, any changes will be controversial but I feel that if we are to set the UK on a sustainable footing, econically speaking, we should not cap or reduce benefits on the young without looking at where savings can be made here as well.

  • david walker 21st Jul '15 - 10:25pm

    It is ironic that Labour spent 5 years rubbishing the Lib Demo for propping up Tories. And now they are tacit supporters of Tory Welfare cuts. Labour supporters it is time to be ashamed! If they had concentrated on the Conservatives more they would have probably won the Election lol Stupid!

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Jul '15 - 10:32pm

    Stuart

    Just a few months ago you were slating Labour for opposing benefit cuts, now you are slating them for (partly) not opposing them. Nobody will ever take the Lib Dems seriously on this issue ever again

    No, I don’t recall any such slating. If there was any, it would be more for the way Labour spent its time jeering “nah nah nah nah nah” at the LibDems, but did not and could not say how THEY would pay for things or do anything else to make constructive suggestions about alternatives. The reality was that the Liberal Democrats were working hard to stop the worse of the Tories, including these horrendous things like letting kids starve if you have too many of them, and we could probably have done more had we some moral support from Labour rather than “nah nah nah nah nah”.

    So, now we have it. Labour destroyed the LibDems in terms of votes and seats accusing them of “backing the Tories” and as soon as it had done so, it rolled over and moved even further Tory-wards itself.

    Not being a fan of Clegg and the Cleggies there were tines when I almost considered should I drop my LibDem support and go to Labour, I am SO SO glad I didn’t. I am truly disgusted by what I am seeing of Labour now. What a shambles! Their reaction to the rubbish right-wing propaganda coming from the Tories and their press supporters is to start treating it as if it is true, apologise for what it says they were doing, and roll over and join in with the Tory attack on what Labour used to be.

    So, not content with destroying us, Labour now wants to destroy itself and install a one-party Tory state because it lacks the backbone to stand up for itself.

  • My single parent friend will lose under these arrangements. I am unclear of the rules but from the way that I read it she would lose money as she works three days a week. She is incensed with both Labour and the Tories.

  • Richard Underhill 21st Jul '15 - 10:45pm

    Watched Daily Politics on 21/7/2015. The BBC specialist programme made no mention of Tim Farron’s speech and the BBC presenter Jo Coburn did not know what he had said. Guest journalist Steve Richards did know and said briegly that Tim Farron was completely against the government’s proposals. Guest journalist Isobel Hardman nodded.

    We will struggle to get coverage, even on important issues on a slaow news day.

  • Kevin Manley 21st Jul '15 - 10:49pm

    Glenn hits nail on head I think. But dont start trying to defend bedroom tax Joe. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and there was lots wrong with that and a lot of the other stuff the Coalition did. Lib Dems may have held the Tories back from being even worse, but it was still pretty bad!
    What strikes me though is the opportunity for Lib Dems to stake out the progressive centre-left social democratic ground if Labour starts shifting to the right, particularly under a Kendall leadership. And I suppose if they shift wildly to the left under a Corbyn leadership. Fight back from there. Glad Tim won as I can’t see Norman doing that.
    Doesn’t bode well for this Parliament though with Lib Dems down to 8, Labour in disarray and SNP raising big questions about legitimacy of voting on non-Scottish issues. No real effective opposition despite very small majority.
    Labour, SNP and Lib Dems all have to work together and adopt common positions on things and to provide some robust and unified opposition to the Tories if there is to be a chance of holding the government to account and stopping them dismantling the fabric of the country and selling it off

  • With the media ignoring us now, there is a very real danger that people will be assuming that we have little to say.

  • Kevin Manley, the Labour leadership candidates, except Corbyn, are getting a furious backlash on Facebook. People are saying they will vote for him because the others abstained. I ‘ve never known such fury from Labour supporters. It looks like Corbyn might win the leadership!!!!

  • I hope people are starting to understand just how difficult things will be from now on. The media will barely bother about us with our 8 MPs. The damage has been done and we have a mountain to climb just to see what is on the other side. How many of us know about the the DUP’s position on issues from the mainstream media? That is how much publicity we will get from now on unless we do things to gain national publicity and that will not be easy. Keeping quiet and waiiting for the nightmare to go away has simply meant that now it is here to stay. The #Labstain is a good start, but how many of us have Tweeted it or put it on Facebook?

    The one thing we all should know now is that IF WE DON’T DO IT, NO ONE ELSE WILL!

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Jul '15 - 1:50am

    If it cheers you up I tell you a party who really is getting ignored: UKIP.

    I have no desire to spend the next five years posting negative comments, hence I’m on a partial strike, but a “social justice” agenda that the party wants to run can work as long as policy is not made on the back of myths.

    It is also not as simple as “justice versus not justice”. On issues such as crime, terrorism and some areas of public spending a lot of people don’t think that the left is on the side of justice.

    Best regards

  • Richard Stallard 22nd Jul '15 - 3:08am

    “On issues such as crime, terrorism and some areas of public spending a lot of people don’t think that the left is on the side of justice.”

    Very, very true! The popular opinion regarding the LD position:
    Crime – The LDs support criminals by wanting to send fewer of them to prison.
    Terrorism: The LDs support terrorism by championing the HRA.
    Public spending: The LDs want to further bankrupt the country (which already has the second highest deficit in the world, I believe (?)) by opposing cuts and supporting needlessly throwing away vast amounts of money to undeserving foreign countries through the EU and the Overseas Aid Budget.

    You won’t agree with these sentiments, I’m sure…
    Please bear in mind, I’m merely stating what the man on the Clapham omnibus thinks about LD policies (well, what my neighbours say they think of them, anyway!). You may not agree with them, but it is they who vote come election time. You might want to think about that.

  • Someone posted about generous rises to pensions….I dont know the figures, but a lot of pensioners are sufficiently poor to qualify for other benefits. Thus a good chunk of this will simply be one benefit replacing another. Not so generous as it seems, certainly not to the poorer pensioner. However, as a matter of policy, basic pensions have become too low and there is huge complication from claiming these other benefits. far better to simplify the system.

    As regards tax credits, it seems clear they have become a much more significant sum than originally envisaged. The question has to be, to what extent employers are relying on tax credits to boost the wages of their employees, rather than paying a higher wage. So this becomes a subsidy on those companies. It may be tax credits have distorted the employment market, pushing down wages which the government then has to pay.

    If that is the case, then any party would be very foolish to simply jump in and demand tax credits be retained.

    As to cutting off benefits after the second child……Subsidising people to have children in an already overcrowded island, amid a rising clamour that it is too crowded, is a truly daft proposition.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Jul '15 - 8:10am

    Danny

    As to cutting off benefits after the second child……Subsidising people to have children in an already overcrowded island, amid a rising clamour that it is too crowded, is a truly daft proposition.

    So what is to be done if the children exist? If you deny people what is needed to support those children, then what? You will need to propose a system for children to dispose of surplus children in some way.

    You may say that people should not have children if they cannot afford them, well, these things happen – would you suggest forced abortion to stop it? What about people who have children thinking they can afford them, but then lose their jobs?

    The right-wing press loves to print articles about people on benefit with huge numbers of children and give the impression that this is common, but the number of such families is tiny.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Jul '15 - 8:24am

    Kevin Manley

    Glenn hits nail on head I think. But dont start trying to defend bedroom tax Joe.

    There are many people living in council houses too big for their needs. There are many families who need council housing but can’t get it. The debate on the “Bedroom Tax” has suggested things may be different in other places, but where I have been politically active every council house vacated due to the “Bedroom Tax” would be re-assigned to a family with more need for it.

    So why, Kevin, do you feel that all those people denied council housing because other people with more bedrooms than they need are hogging it? Isn’t it a socialist principle that resources should be allocated on the basis of need?

    I appreciate that just withdrawing rent subsidies but without assistance to give alternative housing to those affected was wrong. It should not have been done until decent alternative housing had been provided. But I think the underlying principle does have this defence. But anyway, now Labour does not oppose no support for too many children, maybe they would say to those denied council housing they need due to having children is “get rid of the kids”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Jul '15 - 8:33am

    Little Jackie Paper

    If Osborne is wondering why deficit reduction has been slower than he intended he could do worse to look at the how protecting certain big-spending areas affects the deficit

    Much of it comes from the knock-on effect of cuts. Anyone who has been involved in local government knows what this means. You are told to reduce your budget and you have no choice, find the cuts, it’s up to you. So, yes, you do cut things that help with YOUR budget even though the knock-on effect is more spending elsewhere.

    An obvious example, but it’s just one of many, and many are less obvious than this, is the way cuts in training in health care lead to a shortage of necessary workers and employment of expensive agency staff.

    So we have this situation where the cuts don’t reduce overall government spending as they were supposed to do, but then the reaction from the right-wing press, and now the Labour Party, is “Oh, that means the cuts aren’t deep enough, the government isn’t right-wing enough, we need more cuts”. It’s a vicious downward spiral.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Jul '15 - 9:06am

    Christopher Haigh studied Cry the Beloved Country, relating to the despair at the situation in South Africa.
    This was a classic, tinged with sadness about some of the things that the Apartheid era politicians deliberately did, and with further sadness about unintended consequences, such as the damage to the environment in a beautiful country. Another consequence was the effect on neighbouring populations. Adult males from Lesotho would work in the mines in South Africa for a few months at a time, but were not allowed to be accompanied by their wives or children. At the end of each contract they would go home to Lesotho, taking with them HIV. Lesotho was not at war with South Africa, is totally surrounded, and poor.

  • Mathew,
    There was never anything called subsidies for spare rooms, you know it and I know. It was made up after the fact. When your parents were given a council house where on the contact was there a clause about a spare room. And where the hell do you get socialist principle from. Bedroom Tax was a baloney argument from start to finish. Also. this kind of twisting of other people’s arguments is pointlessly alienating to people who are simply pleased that party is moving forward again.

  • Jamie Stewart 22nd Jul '15 - 10:51am

    I’m not a housing expert, but surely the most liberal solution to the council house conundrum is to let local councils decide the priority basis, rather than trying to force the issue centrally for example by the bedroom tax of the coalition government, and the proposed market rent for “wealthy” household salaries. If local councils had the power to enforce these rules at their discretion, rather than being centrally forced down their throats, they may be applied more tactically, and councils may have to take responsibility for affordable rents a bit more than they currently do.

  • @Matthew Huntbach – well said, in all of your posts. Particularly the one about Labour obsessively trying to destroy the Lib Dems over the last 5 years. That was driven by an emotional reaction, which then got formalised into the “35% strategy” – a mistaken belief that if they destroyed the LibDems and took most of that vote, they could win without changing anything else. This ignored that obvious fact that there are large parts of the country where only the LibDems can beat the Tories. Now those areas are Tory.

  • Stephen Campbell 22nd Jul '15 - 11:26am

    I’m no fan of Labour (I vote Green now), but this whole attitude and re-writing of history stinks. Lest we forget, your party supported the welfare “reforms” whilst in coalition. You were told countless times by many people who knew how cruel the system had become under Labour that making it even more cruel and punitive would result in massive tragedies. On this very site, people were told they were “scaremongering” and called “Labour Tr0lls”. You were either in denial or worse did not care. In fact, there have been many deaths and suicides due to your “reforms”. Here’s a small sample:

    Terry McGarvey, 48. Dangerously ill from polycytheamia. He knew he was too ill to attend Work Capability Assessment but was afraid not to go in case benefits were stopped.
    During the session Terry asked for an ambulance.
    He died the following day.
    Source: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/terry-mcgarvey-man-ill-attend-3178486

    Elaine Lowe, 53. Suffering from COPD and fearful of losing her benefits.
    Suicide. Source: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/suicide-bid-of-woman-who-feared-losing-her-incapacity-benefit-8761182.html

    Mark Wood, 44. Doctors advice and medical reports he had complex mental health problems.
    Found fit for work, benefits stopped.
    Starved to death weighing only 5st 8lb when he died.
    Source: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/28/man-starved-to-death-after-benefits-cut

    Paul Reekie, 48, the Leith poet and author. Severe depression. Found fit for work, benefits stopped.
    Suicide. Source: http://www.scotsman.com/news/author-s-suicide-due-to-slash-in-benefits-1-1367963

    (cont..)

  • (Matt Bristol) 22nd Jul '15 - 2:18pm

    Stephen Campbell — I do remember people who criticised the coalition on this site being called Labour trolls. I also remember one this site’s editors spending several articles savaging the whole sanctions on benefits policy and many members backing her (including myself).

    Do you recognise that what Osbourne is asking for in the Welfare Bill and what Labour have abstained on is not a smooth continuation of the direction of travel under the Coalition but a step-change?

    £12bn of FURTHER cuts. That’s £12bn of cuts that were not in the Coallition agreement, were not on the table in the last parliament, were only most vaguely sketched out in the Tory manifesto and that no-one has yet been asked to vote on.

    Whether or not the policies in the last government were ‘LibDem’ policies, LibDems have all the moral right in the world to vote and campaign against these changes without a sniff of hypocrisy. Because they are CHANGES.

    This was not a vote on the morality of the Coaliton policy on welfare (which I agree was flawed). This was a vote on what comes next. LibDems may be split on what IDS was allowed to get away with in the last parliament but they emphatically oppose what the Tories want to come next.

    Labour can’t quite work out what they want yet, but precisely because they seem to have bought the Tory argument that these cuts are much the same as the last lot, they have got themselves into a hell of a mess.

  • Jayne Mansfield 22nd Jul '15 - 2:29pm

    @ Alistair,
    Children don’t vote, so Labour don’t care.

    I think that that is a monstrous suggestion. Whatever his shortcomings, there is no doubt about Gordon Brown’s commitment to children in poverty, nor indeed Labour Party members such as those who are friends of mine.

    In my opinion, a few Labour bigwigs seeking election have noticed that attitudes to the poor and vulnerable have hardened over the past five years and that cutting welfare is popular, and in order to make themselves seem electable they are joining in the ‘ we are all tories’ now crush.

    No wonder Jeremy Corbyn (with his ridiculous ideas about funding free university places by cutting corporation tax is finding such favour!). I suggest to you that his seeming popularity amongst labour’s rank and file shows that Labour not only care about children but also young people, and they are making this known.

    Like Stephen Campbell, I too voted Green at the last election. I hope that Tim Farron can turn things round in a positive way, but my goodness, there are some posters with ‘brass necks’ on this site.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Jul '15 - 3:22pm

    “Children don’t vote, so Labour don’t care.”
    That is just silly, their parents care, their grandparents care, their teachers care, their neighbours care.

  • David Allen 22nd Jul '15 - 3:33pm

    Certainly Labour are in a mess right now. However, Burnham (or Cooper) may be able to turn that around once elected leader, by opposing the Tory plans but proposing plausible alternatives.

    Labour could then charge the Lib Dems with cavorting wildly around the political stage and trying to pretend that they are on the far left after having spent five years toadying to the Tories, thereby proving that they are a complete poltical irrelevance whose support was now falling from 8% to zero. Yes, that’s unfair to Tim Farron, whose principles have not changed – but it isn’t so unfair to some of Clegg’s erstwhile warriors, who are now racing in to pillory Labour with such unseemly glee.

    Careful. Stick to the positive stuff. Stop dancing around poking Labour with sticks and sneering. It doesn’t look very grown-up.

  • Stephen Campbell 22nd Jul '15 - 5:39pm

    Obviously the site’s censors did not see fit to post my other messages with links showing a small example of people who have died or taken their own lives due to Liberal Democrat actions in government.

    I think that says it all. Even the dead don’t matter to them.

  • Peter Watson 22nd Jul '15 - 6:33pm

    Interesting headline in The Independent: “Even the Liberal Democrats are voting against George Osborne’s benefit cuts”.
    (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/even-the-liberal-democrats-are-voting-against-george-osbornes-benefit-cuts-10401768.html)
    Even the Lib Dems?!! That is what the last 5 years has done to the party’s reputation.

  • @Matthew Huntbach
    “No, I don’t recall any such slating.”

    Just to clarify, the “you” I referred to was the OP personally. I’d just been looking at something he’d written back in February when he did indeed slate Labour for opposing coalition welfare cuts (in fact he described Labour’s failure to support cuts as “risible”).

  • Peter,

    I have registered for the Independent and posted a comment. That is what we all need to do when we see these stories

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Jul '15 - 10:36pm

    “e Liberal Democrats have tabled a parliamentary motion calling for the withdrawal of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.
    “It fails to balance economic prudence with the need to protect the most vulnerable in society,” the motion reads, particularly singling out cuts to disability benefits.
    The motion is signed by all eight Liberal Democrat MPs, including former party leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.”

  • Kevin Manley 22nd Jul '15 - 10:42pm

    @Matthew dont think we want to turn this into a bedroom tax debate but many of them would gladly move but there is insufficient housing stock to move people to smaller accommodation so charging these people for having an extra bedroom when there’s nowhere to move them to is indefensible. The solution isnt to drive these already impoverished people – they’re on housong benefit after all – into further poverty as some sort of well intentoned but misguided attempt to “encourage” people to move elsewhere, but to build more low occupancy council houses and social housing so theres somewhere for them to move to.

  • Alex Sabine 23rd Jul '15 - 1:20am

    @ Joe
    “Contrast with ou policy of £3.5 billion of welfare savings targeted at the better off. Credible and decent.”

    Setting aside for a moment valid objections to the new government’s policies, I don’t think this claim can be made of Lib Dem policy. For one thing, the net saving in the Lib Dem 2015 manifesto proposals was only £2 billion to £2.5 billion, not £3.5 billion.

    Of this more modest total, the vast majority was supposedly to come not from specific measures but from the kind of vague ‘efficiency savings’ which political parties including the Lib Dems like to fall back on when they don’t want to make the ‘tough choices’ of which they simultaneously boast. The Lib Dem costings scored £1 billion of savings from that old chestnut, reducing fraud and error, and another £1 billion from ‘improving back-to-work support for benefit claimants’.

    The IFS certainly did not regard the Lib Dem welfare policies as particularly credible. Its comment on the two big-ticket savings was: “While these are both laudable aims, it seems unlikely that they would not be shared by any incoming government. Moreover, both of these figures are subject to significant uncertainty and may well require significant up-front investment to realise the revenues targeted.”

    It added: “…The £2 billion of net reductions they do wish to make is almost entirely accounted for by rather hopeful promises to increase employment and reduce fraud and error… Specific proposals on benefit rates and rules would reduce spending by less than £600 million in 2017-18, and only by around £200 million in the long run.”

    For context, the Lib Dem proposal to remove winter fuel payments and free TV licences from the highest income pensioners was expected to yield a trifling £115 million, a rounding error in government budgeting.

  • Alex Sabine 23rd Jul '15 - 1:20am

    The IFS noted that Lib Dem projecions of increased tax revenue was underpinned by similarly heroic assumptions: “Indeed, the Liberal Democrats are relying on hypothetical anti-avoidance measures to an even greater extent than the Conservatives and Labour, requiring an eye-watering £9.7 billion of annual revenue from that source by the end of the parliament compared with £6.7 billion for Labour and £4.6 billion for the Conservatives.”

    It is debatable whether Lib Dem welfare policy as laid out at the recent election was decent or fair; but ‘credible’ it certainly wasn’t. That’s a pity, because there are certainly better ways to make multi-billion pound savings from the social security budget than the lopsided and in some cases counter-productive approach the Tory government has opted for. I don’t think blanket opposition to further welfare reform would be the best way of atoning for failing to make that case, however.

  • Alex Sabine 23rd Jul '15 - 1:42am

    Matthew: If you look at the coalition’s original June 2010 Budget or the spending review that autumn, you will see that the planned reduction in overall government spending was always modest: less than 1% per year in real terms, a modest increase in cash terms. Those plans were achieved – with slightly higher than planned capital investment offset by slightly lower than planned current spending.

    The ‘slippage’ in reducing the deficit was entirely accounted for by the weakness of tax receipts (which now finally seem to be growing more strongly). Osborne sensibly chose to accommodate this so as to support demand rather than raise taxes to compensate.

    The rhetoric employed at times (especially by the Labour opposition of course, but also by coalition ministers) may have suggested massive spending cuts which then proved unachievable, but the actual numbers tell a different story. The last government (and here a big slice of the credit should go to Danny Alexander as Chief Secretary) was unusually successful in hitting its spending targets over a five-year period.

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Jul '15 - 10:06am

    Reducing fraud and error IS an “old chestnut” but do it anyway,. Please see “The Too Difficult Box” a collection of essays about government edited by former Home Secretary Charles Clarke. One of the easiest ways to raise money is to increase the number of tax inspectors. This raises £10 for every £1 spent.
    George Osborne has taken forward some of the ideas that Danny Alexander had been working on in the area of tax evasion and avoidance.
    Bizarrely one of the things the Greek government did was to save money by reducing the number of tax inspectors.
    As John McEnroe used to say “You cannot be serious!!”

  • Richard: I agree, but it is better not to count chickens before they hatch: ie pursue efficiency savings, reduce fraud and error, but don’t rely heavily on quantified savings from these areas to make your sums add up. As the IFS pointed out, the Lib Dem claim to a ‘fully costed manifesto’ and a plan to clear the deficit was predicated on just such assumptions, with the majority of the projected net expenditure savings and revenue-raising coming from these type of ‘crackdowns’.

    And yes, there are some good insights in the The Too Difficult Box.

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Jul '15 - 12:09pm

    Micro-management had an effect as well.
    Civil servants were told to clear out their desks and keep essentials in one box each to be taken daily from a cupboard.
    Putting smaller desks closer together, with a modern computer each, saved the rent on whole buildings.

  • John Tilley 23rd Jul '15 - 1:07pm

    Stephen Campbell 22nd Jul ’15 – 11:26am

    A good reminder (and a reality check for some) of the sudden about-face of some people here in LDV.

    Having said that it is important to campaign against these appalling Conservative Governement cuts in social security support for people in need.
    The criticism of Labour will look a bit shabby if it distracts attention from the appalling Conservative actions.

    I am all for criticising those in the Labour Party like Harriet Harman who seem just the same as the other complacent, conservative and rich residents of The Westminster bubble.
    I do however welcome the dozens of Labour MPs like Jeremy Corbyn who did the decent thing and voted against these further cuts in the living standards of poor children.
    We should be encouraging people on the left of The Labour Party, as well as The Greens and the SNP to join with us and campaign on issues such as this.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Jul '15 - 5:34pm

    Kevin Manley

    @Matthew dont think we want to turn this into a bedroom tax debate but many of them would gladly move but there is insufficient housing stock to move people to smaller accommodation so charging these people for having an extra bedroom when there’s nowhere to move them to is indefensible.

    Sure, and I said that myself. But my point was that there are two sides to this thing, and we only ever hear one of them.

    Glenn

    There was never anything called subsidies for spare rooms, you know it and I know. It was made up after the fact. When your parents were given a council house where on the contact was there a clause about a spare room.

    The house was allocated on the basis of them having four children, so a need for a three-bedroom house. Had they still been living there together after we had all left home, yes, they would have two spare bedrooms.

    Now, consider the following scenario. You are a councillor, and into your surgery comes a family with four children living in a two bedroomed flat. They have been told they will never get given a three bedroomed council house because others will always have priority over them. They have come to you hoping you will do something, but you know you can’t, and have to tell then that. They leave your surgery in tears. Next comes in a single person who lives in a three bedroomed council house after his parents have died, and he wants to push the case that he should inherit the tenancy. Right now that is what happens, so long as you were living there, and the casework here is the council arguing that he wasn’t really living there and he saying he was – and he wants you as a councillor to support him, and in this case he does have a case and can prove it.

    These are two typical pieces of casework I faced many times when I was a councillor. Why do you support that single person having the three bedroomed house and so depriving the family with four children having it? My sympathy (not outright support, I agree with Kevin that it should not have been implemented in the brutal way it was) for the “bedroom tax” comes from seeing so many under-occupied council properties and so many people in desperate need of them who would never get them.

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Jul '15 - 8:37pm

    Why does the single person want to pay the rent on a three bedroom house? Is he/she about o become not single?
    Is he/she wanting to buty the house? If so, is a discount applicable?

  • Little Jackie Paper 23rd Jul '15 - 9:52pm

    Just an interesting aside on the bedroom tax/spare room subsidy. This was one of the pensioner protections and as far as I’m aware it still stands.

    I’ve not seen anything definitive on this, but the Daily Telegraph (of all places) did a survey which makes interesting reading.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/11436320/What-if-pensioners-paid-the-bedroom-tax.html

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Jul '15 - 10:05pm

    Richard Underhill

    Why does the single person want to pay the rent on a three bedroom house? Is he/she about o become not single?

    But we are talking about “bedroom tax” i.e. when the rent is paid by housing benefit.

    Even if that were not the case, the cost-only rent of a three bedroomed council house is much less than the market rent on a one-bedroom flat. Plus, it’s nice to have spare bedrooms and a garden, isn’t it?

    Is he/she wanting to buy the house? If so, is a discount applicable?

    Well, yes, of course. Mostly this is what it is about. The discount is huge. Why should anyone give a three-bedroom council house back to the council to rent out to those who need it when this huge discount is available to buy and sell it off and make a big profit? Of course if you have elderly parents living in such a house, you will buy it from before they die, so you can inherit it and make a big profit.

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Jul '15 - 10:16pm

    Thank you for making that clear.
    I understnd that the SNP have abolished the right to buy. in Scotland.
    Could some aspects of what they say be wise?
    Should we be mopre choosey?

  • Right to buy combined with the restrictions Thatcher put on public sector house building has been a major factor in the current benefits crisis, and now Cameron is extending that to Housing Associations. (Forcing charities to sell their property?? Very Big Government, I would say…).

    I look forward to the day when Cameron extends the right to buy to private tenants! Force private landlords to sell their houses at 1/3 the market value!

    I would be happy to see right to buy abolished… It has been a very populist policy, but with the huge growth of the private rented sector, no longer a vote winner I suspect

  • Matthew,

    Thanks for that insight on how the Bedroom Tax interacts with right to buy, which had not occurred to me before..

    I agree with you that the Bedroom tax was not, in itself, a bad idea (if there had been anywhere smaller for people to go) But as usual all the pressure to occupy less space was put on the poor, not the rich. Why on Earth do we still have a rebate on Council Tax for single occupancy, for example?

  • @John Tilley “We should be encouraging people on the left of The Labour Party, as well as The Greens and the SNP”

    Really? http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LPn0KFlbqX8

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