Opinion: Bob Russell’s advice over housing benefit should be heeded by the coalition

During yesterday’s PMQs, the most vocal Lib Dem rebel MP today made an exceptionally well-stated and compassionate plea for the coalition government to rethink their plans to cut housing benefit.

Bob Russell, who stood to cries of “hear, hear” from those on the benches opposite when John Bercow called his name, voiced his concerns that as a result of the changes, thousands of children could possibly become homeless.

It is certainly a consideration that has to be taken seriously by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and their cabinet colleagues.

They may well respond – as the Prime Minister did this afternoon – by saying that the changes are aimed at creating fairness.

But with London Councils claiming that 170,000 Londoners will be hit by the cap, the coalition must ensure that by making the benefit system fairer, they don’t create entirely new problems.

Uprooting children from their friends and schools could be excessively disruptive, and while the Government has announced plans to build more affordable homes, these won’t be available for a number of years.

Proposals that would incorporate a gradual introduction of the cap, allowing rent prices and families to adapt to the new system, would surely be favourable.

Hopefully, with pressure from backbenches led by Russell and Simon Hughes – who has also expressed his concerns over the Governments plans – the potentially disastrous results of this well-meaning policy can be avoided.

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103 Comments

  • Liberal Neil 28th Oct '10 - 11:02am

    If a working family can’t afford to live in the house they live in any more they have to move house to one they can afford.

    Why should it be any different for those on Housing Benefits?

  • This issue is more to do with the toxic elephant in the room – `the over centralised political economy centred on London`. London reminds me of a tussle between parents who use their child in a divorce settlement – the left pulls one way and the right the other to keep their prized possession for themselves forgetting that the child is damaged in the process. Thankfully the Coalition understands that London is a vested interest – and this latest issue is really between a privileged few who were lucky or use the system to stay in the centre of the capital who now may have to readjust in live in places as terrible as, wait for it, Leyton or Manor House.

    Anyone outside London just looks on bemused and wonder how we got to such a state that we allow one area to prosper so much compared to the rest of the country that properties cost 2k a month to rent. Where I live there is nothing over 1k a month – same as for everywhere else including Manchester and Birmingham city centre.

    Perhaps the penny’s dropping – with the retraction of the financial services industry as the only real engine of the economy it is clear that Boris is trying to stem the tide. The Coalition meanwhile is promoting green industries in the NE and putting money into science.

    London will always be prosperous – but will be as dominant in 20 years time? Time to think the unthinkable – move the Parliament?

  • @ Liberal Neil

    The first comment up really makes me wonder about the ‘Liberal’ Democrats whole philosophy at the present time…. I perhaps I shouldn’t be wondering at all… Cameron must to to to bed laughing and wake up laughing….

  • @paulbee – do you think then that families, or rather the rental landlords in central london, should be subsidised by those who are simply `unlucky` enough not to live in Central London`? I’m not quite sure what Bob Russell’s point was apart from citing a newspaper article and wondering `was the article factual?`

  • This is largely a London problem. As I said on a different article, It wasn’t very long ago that MPs were saying £23000 a year was needed as a second home allowance for just one person. Many of these low income people on housing benefit keep central London running in a variety of ways. It’s no wonder Boris Johnson is concerned.. Forcing low income families to move out to the ‘suburbs’ so they can travel in-and-out everyday doesn’t make much sense to me. The real problem is that central London housing/living costs are too high, and central London wages are too low. The best thing the coalition could do is to consider moving many – if not all – government functions out of London. I’d start with parliament itself. Why shouldn’t parliament be in Stoke, Derby, Sheffield, or Bradford? A similar case could be made for the ministry buildings. Many of the ‘quangos’ are located outside of London. Pulling the functions they perform back into their respective ministries is likely to shift jobs back into London (I can’t prove it – but it’s a reasonable guess). London has wages problems, housing problems, congestion problems. Too much is based in London. Although many businesses have re-located over the last thirty years, the problem remains. I suspect it is all the London based government functions that are causing and maintaining London’s problems – and the London problems cause regional problems – which become national problems. The alternative is to have a minimum wage for London of around £15/hour.

  • Dominic Curran 28th Oct '10 - 12:20pm

    @ Liberal Neil

    1. The majority of those who receive housing benefit are also working, so your distinction between HB recipients and ‘working fmailies’ is a false one.

    2. If a ‘working family’ in the sense that you used the term (ie not in receipt of benefits) couldn’t make the rent or mortgage payments, they are able to apply for HB. There is no rule saying that they can’t. They are as entitles as anyone else to benefit from this support, so don’t attempt to find an unfairness where it doesn’t exist.

    3. Undoubtedly, however, the HB system is broken and full of anomalies, not least becuase of sky high house prices and a lack of affordable housing driving people into expensive private rented accommodation. Reform is needed, but this is a particularly ill-considered reform, and one that may end up costing more than it saves.

    4. If a family has to move because of a change in circumstances beyond their control, that is sad. This change, however, is entirely within our control, or rather, is entirely within David Cameron’s and our MInisters’, to be precise. I wouldn’t choose to evict anyone from their settled home if i could avoid it, why should we chose to do so now?

  • Dominic Curran 28th Oct '10 - 12:24pm

    @ John & RichardSM – moving parliament would do nothing substantial to shift the economy away from london. Look at Canberra’s effect on Sydney or Brasilia’s effect on Rio/Sao Paolo – in both cases it was marginal. London will always be the centre of things.

    However, more investment in regional infrastructure and the return of powers to local government to make decisons for itself – both of which the coalition are doing and which i fully support – will help re-balance the english economy.

  • It was pointed out the other day that many housing benefits recipients face higher rental bills than average because their choice of property is more limited as many landlords won’t accept them. I don’t know how large an effect this is but it’s worth remembering that a bill of £x/week might not be consistent for different groups of people.

  • @Dominic Curran
    You seem to contradict yourself within your post. I really don’t know what you’re saying.

  • When people are forced into outer-London wont those areas experience rent increases, This policy could cause a domino effect of misery.

  • Dominic Curran 28th Oct '10 - 2:20pm

    @ RichardSM

    I’m sorry that you didn’t understand my post. I’ll explain again.

    You suggested that the fact that London was the centre of government was a prime reason as to why it was expensive and overheated as an economy.

    I said in response that in countries where the capital has been shifted away from the main city, such as Brazil and Australia, the main city that had previously been the capital remained a growth point, with all the attendant issues of prices and wages going up, congestion etc. My point is that the reason for the focus of things on London is to do with much wider economic issues than the fact that it is the location of the government. I therefore don’t think it will make much, if any difference.

    i went on to say that there are other things that could help re-balance england’s economy, things which weren’t about a very expensive moving of government.

    i really can’t be any clearer!

  • The figure from London Councils of 82,000 families losing their homes is nonsense. It is based on their asking landlords if they would evict tenants after any reduction in HB. But why on earth would landlords say now they would be happier to take a smaller rent. Are they really going to evict people if they get £20 a week less? (which is what 90% of them said they would do)

  • Why not ignore SMcG’s partisan, Cameroneque dismissal of the research and read for yourselves. It is sobering, and it is the most likely outcome of these disgraceful changes.

    http://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/London%20Councils/ ImpactofLHAChangesALandlordSurveyFinalReportSept20.pdf

    Well done, Liberals!

  • Dominic Curran 28th Oct '10 - 3:03pm

    @ SMcG

    No, they’re much more likely to not renew the tenancy, unless they have an especially good relationship with the tenant. But remember, £20 pw is £1,040 pa, which is quite a lot of money to forego. I suspect that we won’t see the lowering of rents that the Tories keep saying will happen, and which they use as a shield to justify this ill-considered policy, as there isn’t a single shred of evidence for it.

  • Your response to my suggestion of moving parliament/government functions out of London was that it “would do nothing” or be marginal. (Which is it?) But you then went on to argue for a re-balancing of the english economy by building infrastructure. That’ seems to be a contradiction.

    In any event, I didn’t suggest building a new capital. That was your interpretation. I suggested a dispersal to places like Stoke, Derby, Sheffield, or Bradford. However, are you really suggesting that closing Brasilia down and moving all it’s residents into Rio/Sao Paolo would reduce congestion and housing problems of the latter? Do you think it would be beneficial to relocate Canberra, whose population is mostly public service employees, into Sydney?

    Finally, how will “more investment in regional infrastructure and the return of powers to local government to make decisons for itself,” reduce the cost of housing in London?

  • @bOB i agree people should read the research which is nonsense.
    I see the stuff about B&Bs being booked is also wrong – you don’t mention that though

  • Could all the various people who disagree with the policy on HB tell us what the limit should be?
    or are you happy that there are 80 families in Westminster getting HB of more than £50,000 a year?

  • Dominic Curran 28th Oct '10 - 4:28pm

    @ Richard SM

    I don’t think that saying that the effect on congestion and house prices of moving parliament and/or government out of London is ‘nothing or marginal’ is inherently contradictory, except in the most anally literal of senses. To ease your troubled mind, however, I’ll say that I think it would be at best marginal.

    However, saying that I don’t think moving parliament would help isn’t to say that i don’t think the economy is unbalanced. When i talked about infrastructure, i obviously wasn’t talking about government or parliament, i was talking about infrastructure in the commonly accepted sense of transport and communications. So, for example, extending broadband access or high speed rail around England would make other regions more competitive, and thus reduce pressure on the south-east. further, allowing locla governemnt to make decisions for itslef, and thus, i would argue, better decisions than those predicated in whitehall diktat, will create local government more responsive to local need and more empowered to do something about it. I think this will rejuvenate local economies, reducing the number of people who need to move to london for work, and thus house prices.

    I also don’t think that moving those capitals back woudl make Rio or Sydney less congested, naturally. However, those capitals have grown substantailly since they were set up. As, indeed have Rio and Sydney, which was my point (ie that it didn’t stop them getting bigger and congested).

  • Liberal Neil 28th Oct '10 - 5:19pm

    @paulbee I notice you chose to make a general attack rather than answer the question.

    I still don’t understand why it is unfair to say that those reliant on Housing Benefit should not be better off than other working people, when that benefit is funded by those other people’s taxes.

  • Liberal Neil 28th Oct '10 - 5:54pm

    @ Dominic Curran

    1. The majority of those who receive housing benefit are also working, so your distinction between HB recipients and ‘working fmailies’ is a false one.

    Are they? I thought only about 14% of HB claimants were working.

    2. If a ‘working family’ in the sense that you used the term (ie not in receipt of benefits) couldn’t make the rent or mortgage payments, they are able to apply for HB. There is no rule saying that they can’t. They are as entitles as anyone else to benefit from this support, so don’t attempt to find an unfairness where it doesn’t exist.

    Are you sure about that?! I’m pretty sure you can’t get HB towards mortgage payments. You certainly can get it towards rent if you are working on a low-medium income and renting. How will the cap apply to people who are working and only receive part of their rent in benefit – won’t they be fine if they claim below the cap? In any event, it’s not the point, most people don’t want to rely on benefits and shouldn’t have to.

    3. Undoubtedly, however, the HB system is broken and full of anomalies, not least becuase of sky high house prices and a lack of affordable housing driving people into expensive private rented accommodation. Reform is needed, but this is a particularly ill-considered reform, and one that may end up costing more than it saves.

    I agree with the first part of this. The latter part is yet to be seen. I don’t think it will have a smajor effect as many people suggest and that most people will adapt. I think it does deal with a major unfairness that millions of people on ordinary incomes pay tax to pay for HB for people living in properties they could never afford to live in.

    4. If a family has to move because of a change in circumstances beyond their control, that is sad. This change, however, is entirely within our control, or rather, is entirely within David Cameron’s and our MInisters’, to be precise. I wouldn’t choose to evict anyone from their settled home if i could avoid it, why should we chose to do so now?

    It is sad, but for the vast majority of working people it is reality. Why should the HB regime be so generous as to protect one minority from this reality? The Government is not evicting anyone, they are just putting HB claimants in the same position as everyone else.

  • Barry George 28th Oct '10 - 6:45pm

    Ooops , I thought I was reading LDV until I read some of these comments. Then I realised, this must be the daily Mail.

    Anyone willing to tell us ‘how’ a person on less than £60 ESA is actually going to find the funds to move to a cheaper property ? Or does the fact that this policy will make such people homeless not concern you ? It’s just the fact that they happen to have lost their jobs whilst living in a nicer house than someone else who is working that upsets people.

    So what we will do is continue to give them less than £60 a week and tell them to move to somewhere cheaper…

    Well on that income I guess the ‘somewhere cheaper’ would be the local bus shelter. But at least they no longer have a nicer home than anyone with a job. Bloody scroungers!

    You can’t move whilst recieving unemployment benefit. You can barely make the bills and eat. So the thousands of pounds required to move are an impossible dream.

    If you cap housing benefit then you throw vulnerable people out onto the street. Why not cap what the landlords can charge instead. That way you’re not making people homeless.

    But that’s not the Tory way is it…

    Let’s not forget that the majority of the unemployed have paid taxes all their working lives. But many have fallen on hard times. So the taxes they paid for all those years count for nothing?

    If we have dropped to the level of viewing people on benefits with envy then I would strongly advise putting the Daily mail/ Sun away and actually trying to survive and look for work when on benefits and without savings. Maybe then we would have a different perspective of the lives of luxury they apparently lead.

  • Ruth Bright 28th Oct '10 - 7:52pm

    I feel really saddened by some of the contributions to this thread. Part of my family tree stems from Winchester and its surrounding villages and from Bethnal Green, Hoxton and Southwark. We are a working family (well off enough to be losing our child benefit courtesy of the coalition!) yet could not afford to buy a family home in any of these places.
    This does not mean that I wish to see children, who by accident of birth were born into poverty in an expensive part of the country to lose their homes.

    I suppose some of these people who have to move out could give up on bricks and mortar and caravan to cheaper bits of the country – we know what a warm welcome travellers get from coalition councillors don’t we?

  • At the moment Boris Johnson is looking more Liberal and a greater defender of human rights than anyone in the Coalition.

  • Liberal Neil 28th Oct '10 - 8:47pm

    @matt “someone under 25 is currently in receipt of JSA now @£50.95 a week

    Lets say for arguments sake they are in private accommodation @ £150.00 a week
    But also gets full Housing Benefit to cover costs of the flat @ £150.00 a week.

    After 12 months

    is it right that they should have their HB reduced by £15.00 a week, and making them pay the shortfall to their landlords?

    You would be forcing the young (under 25) who are already struggling to find work to live on £35.95 a week, To feed,clothe and pay utilities and travel to find work.”

    Any single 25 year old paying £150 per week should move sharpish, it’s way over the odds.

  • Liberal Neil 28th Oct '10 - 8:55pm

    @ matt It is quite possible to agree with, and argue for, some of the proposed changes to the benefits system, without going along with a Daily Mail style condemnation of benefits claimants.

    I believe that the specific proposals to cap HB payments are fair, because I know that the HB system as it currently operates is very fafir to the mass of people on ordinary incomes who are materially worse off than a minority of people living on benefits.

    I am yet to hear why this minority of HB recipients should ne entitled to live in housing more expensive than those whose taxes pay for the HB could ever afford to, or why this minority of HB recipients should be entitled to any greater security of tenure than the the rest of us.

  • The spectacle of “Liberal” posters on here praising a plan that will make force families into B&B accommodation is risible.
    Blaming the vulnerable, underpaid and jobless for a deficit over inflated by the banking crisis is not something that I thought i would live to see as a Libdem tactic.

  • Barry George 28th Oct '10 - 9:14pm

    Any single 25 year old paying £150 per week should move sharpish, it’s way over the odds.

    I assume from your comment that you are personally willing to fund the said required sharpish move for the tens of thousands affected ?

    The person moves to a cheaper room at £100 per week, so they need

    £400 advance rent
    £500 deposit
    Up to £100 contract fees
    and an estimated £100 moving fees

    That’s a meagre £1100 the person has to find before they even get the key to their nice new room.

    And this money is coming from ???

    Or do you expect the claimant on £50.95 a week (for food, bills and looking for work) to save up over a number of decades to achieve your aim of having no unemployed people living in better houses than anyone working ?

    Oh, I forget, the Coalition will only give you 12 months to save up your moving costs before they take 10% of your Housing benefit away and you find yourself homeless.

    And even if you find a property within the cap you still lose 10 % of your benefit as a punishment for failing to get a job during an economic crisis within 12 months.

    What a dilema, should a person spend the 12 months grace, saving and looking for somewhere cheaper to live because of the cap ? or should they spend the 12 months looking for work to prevent the cut in benefit. ?

    Oh the choices of those lucky welfare scroungers are so plentiful.

    How very Liberal !

  • Liberal Neil 28th Oct '10 - 9:19pm

    @ Ruth Bright

    I don’t think any of the Lib Dems here particularly want to see children being thrown out of their own homes. Personally I doubt this will happen. Most HB recipients will not be affected by the changes at all, and most of the minority who are will still be entitled to HB.

    But it isn’t feasible, given the cuurent state of the housing market, rent levels, property prices and public finances, for everyone to be funded to live in the property they would like to in the place they would like to.

    It therefore seems reasonable to me, and fair, to look at why the current system enables one group of people to be funded to live where they choose, however expensive, when their housing costs are being paid for by people who do not have this choice.

    Most people’s choice about where they live is dictated by their income and wealth. When we moved to Oxfordshire it would have been much easier for us to live in Oxford, where we both work, but we couldn’t afford to, so we moved to south abingdon and both spend a lot of time and money commuting as a result.

    This is the reaility for most people, even households in the top 10% of incomes, as you testify.

    In an ideal world I would like everyone to have the choice to live where they want to. In the world as it is, I don’t see why those having their rent paid by HB should be in a significantly better position than those whose rent isn’t.

    I’m sorry if this saddens you. I can see where you are coming from on this, but I disagree with you about the policy, on the basis of fairness.

  • @Matt
    “Please explain to me why the Tax payer is willing to pay (2nd Home) allowences of £1450 to an MP (£362.50 A week)
    But is not willing to pay £1360 (£340 A Week) in Housing Benefit for a 3 bedroom House for a Family.
    If Housing Benefit is to be capped and it is now to expensive for recipients to live in London, Then surly it is Morally right, for the same rules to apply to MP’s? How do they feel about having their allowances reduced and forced to rent 2nd homes in the outer London Suburbs instead.”

    Why also is the tax payer willing to pay so much for councillors’ allowances? The worst thing to happen, it became about the money, sometimes becoming more of a family business and not serving the people and yes I can give very many examples. I wonder how many Lib Dem Councillors will change their tune when they lose perhaps £14000 a year in May and that is only the basic, can be £30000 with extra allowances. And they think the HB cap is fair? Perhaps they will be wanting to claim it then.

  • Barry George 28th Oct '10 - 9:35pm

    I don’t see why those having their rent paid by HB should be in a significantly better position than those whose rent isn’t.

    But we are talking about people trying to survive on less than £60 per week! How is that “significantly better“ than someone who is working ?

    You have such a choice Neil.. You could choose to live in a significantly better house and be only left with £60 per week to live on. You have that choice.. The unemployed person can’t just go and get himself a nice plush flat in Chelsea can he ? He is stuck where ever he finds himself after he looses his job.

    Your interpretation of the’ luxury’ of life living on less than £60 per week is just about as unfair and illiberal a comment as I have ever read on this site.

  • Vince and Nick are now officially even more right wing than Boris Johnson.
    Just mull that one over before resorting to the Cameroonian/Thatcherite “there is no alternative” excuses.

    Families living in fear of being forceably relocated while the poor, the vulnerable and disabled are frightened out of their wits by threats to remove or slash their only source of income.

    This is unpardonable folly and there will be a heavy price paid by those responsible for this.

  • @Liberal Neil

    Are you sure that your sobriquet isn’t ironic? From your comments you seem like a true blue Tory to me.

    There used to be a Liberal Democrat party not so long ago that wasn’t averse to raising income tax and spending it on welfare. I wonder what happened to it?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 28th Oct '10 - 10:09pm

    Actually, why should these scroungers expect to be allowed to carry on living in the UK, when it means hard-working families paying higher taxes?

    I believe some very reasonably priced property is to be had in Calcutta. Why not send them there?

  • Barry George 28th Oct '10 - 10:19pm

    I believe some very reasonably priced property is to be had in Calcutta

    🙂

    Ohhh , Anthony, you are talking about ‘social cleansing.’ Now you know Nick said that was a bad word to use, even if it’s true the concept has been banned by our great leader so you must write 500 times….

    This is not social cleansing. It may sound like it, it may look like it, it may actually be it ,but I am forbidden from thinking it to be so…

    War is peace and all that comrade.

  • Anyone outside London just looks on bemused and wonder how we got to such a state that we allow one area to prosper so much compared to the rest of the country that properties cost 2k a month to rent.

    I am not astonished that their are some small areas of the country where house prices and rents are so high. I am just astonished that the government is paying people to live there. Can they really think of nothing better to do with the money?

    How many thousands of teachers/ nurses/ university students could be paid for with the money spent paying people to live in central London, rather than its suburbs?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 28th Oct '10 - 10:24pm

    Barry

    It’s no joke. I read in the Daily Mail that some of these people actually have indoor lavatories and even telephones. (I mean in this country, not in Calcutta, of course.)

  • Barry George 28th Oct '10 - 10:42pm

    Lavatories ?

    Where I work we all have to share the lavatory !

    Why should the unemployed have their own lavatory when us working people have to share !

    A simple hole dug at the edge of each ghetto for the community to share should be enough for those scroungers…

  • @Liberal neil
    I believe that the specific proposals to cap HB payments are fair, because I know that the HB system as it currently operates is very fafir to the mass of people on ordinary incomes who are materially worse off than a minority of people living on benefits.
    …………………………….#
    This Neil realy is ‘daily mail’ style propoganda …. wheres the evidence for thislavish lifestyles larger families need larger houses it doesn’t make them better off in any fair way of measuring it . You keep going on about the housing benefit cap whichj is the laest worse of the three steps to sending those wretched unemployed into the slums . The 25K on total benafits will do just that .

  • Liberal Neil 29th Oct '10 - 12:13am

    @ matt

    You are quoting the average price on that particular website, and even then the average price for a studio flat is less than the £150 per wekk you suggested.

    Firstly I wouldn’t expect an unemployed single 25 year old to pay the average rent for an area, but below average.

    Secondly I wouldn’t expect a single person to need a flat to themselves. In fact most of the 25 years olds I know in Abingdon, and indeed Oxford, live in shared houses.

    If I was 25, single, and living in Abingdon I would expect to share a house and would at websites like this one:

    http://www.spare-room.co.uk/flatshare/?search_id=40780988&

    And in Norwich I would use a similar site, type in Norwich, and find a range of rooms, many in the £250 – £350 pcm range.

    And in London, I’d do the same thing, and find quite a range, including quite a lot in Tottenham, where I used to live.

    On the 10% reduction after a year on JSA – again, based on your hyperthetical 25 year old. If I was 25, unemployed and living on

  • Liberal Neil 29th Oct '10 - 12:27am

    @ matt Sorry, clicked the wrong button before finishing.

    On the 10% reduction after a year on JSA – again, based on your 25 year old, firstly I would move somewhere cheaper (we may have to agree to differ on whether that is possible, I believe, having looked, that it is) and secondly I would get a job. Now I know what you are thinking at this point – you are thinking ‘typical Tory response’. But it is a serious one. I seriously doubt that any able 25 year old actively seeking work would not be able to find a job earning more than £50 a week. That is nine hours at minimum wage level.

    Do you think they couldn’t?

    BTW – I happen to completely agree with you about MP’s accommodation, and this is something I agree with Bob Russell about. I would build (or buy up) some blocks of Tracelodge style one bed apartments for them. Same as most people who work away from home sleep in.

  • Liberal Neil 29th Oct '10 - 12:31am

    @ Barry George

    In which posting did I describe anyone living on benefits as living in ‘luxury’?

  • Liberal Neil 29th Oct '10 - 12:41am

    @ MacK I have no problem with people paying income tax to fund benefits for those who need them.

    But that’s not the issue here.

    The issue here is what level of benefits is necessary to keep people out of poverty, and what quality and choice in housing it is reasonable for the state to guarantee.

    To my mind the overall level of benefits that are being proposed, and the upper limits in HB claims, are set at a reasonable level that the people recieving them should not be in poverty (on any reasonable definition of it).

    And in my view it is not illiberal to look at whether it is right that a minority of people living on benefits are in a better position than others who work, and whether this needs reform.

  • Liberal Neil 29th Oct '10 - 1:07am

    @ John Fraser

    Where in any of my comments did I say that families living on benefits are living ‘lavish’ lifestyles? I don’t think I have anywhere.

    I do not agree with the Daily Mail’s approach, do not believe claimants are ‘scroungers’, and do not believe people living on benefits are living in luxury.

    And none of the arguments I have put have been based on such points.

    The purpose of the welfare system is to ensure that people don’t live in poverty (and, if you go back to Beveridge, in idleness). I am not convinced that a family can’t live on an income of £26K. They won’t be living in luxury, they may not be able to live in the most expensive neighbourhoods in London, but they also won’t be any worse off than millions of other people who work.

    It is hyperbolic to suggest that ‘those wretched unemployed’ as you call them are going to be living in slums. Some families may need to move to less expensive properties, as many other people have to do.

    What size of family do you think would struggle to live on £26K overall? How many such families do you think there are? How many families in which one or more adults work do you think live on that sort of income?

  • Barry George 29th Oct '10 - 3:06am

    .Liberal Neil

    You said “I don’t see why those having their rent paid by HB should be in a significantly better position than those whose rent isn’t.I’m sorry if this saddens you. I can see where you are coming from on this, but I disagree with you about the policy, on the basis of fairness. ”

    To which I replied “ But we are talking about people trying to survive on less than £60 per week! How is that “significantly better“ than someone who is working ?

    You have such a choice Neil.. You could choose to live in a significantly better house and be only left with £60 per week to live on. You have that choice.. The unemployed person can’t just go and get himself a nice plush flat in Chelsea can he ? He is stuck where ever he finds himself after he looses his job.

    Your interpretation of the’ luxury’ of life living on less than £60 per week is just about as unfair and illiberal a comment as I have ever read on this site

    I used the word luxury. You used the term “significantly better ”

    I asked you to justify significantly better but you choose instead to ignore that request and instead fixate on your lack of use of the word ‘luxury’.

    Relative is the key. To an unemployed person on less than £60 a week it would certainly be ‘significantly better’ .. almost luxurious to live on the budget of the average working Joe. I am sure the unemployed would find your lifestyle luxurious. To start you have internet access and I am quite sure that you are not feeding, clothing yourself and paying your bills out of less than £60 per week.

    You come across as envious of a mysterious and tiny group of benefit scroungers who manage to milk the system and you seem quite happy to see the 99% genuine poverty cases that will be thrown to the wolves go down with them.

    You argue that you believe that the unemployed person has the funds to move yet present no further evidence that this is the case beyond “the people who are 25 that you know”(paraphrased)

    And you state with comfortable ease that if you were unemployed and 25 then you would get a job and that you don’t believe that anyone in such circumstances couldn’t do so also.

    That is beyond patronising , It is geographically biased , It doesn’t take into account the skills and training the job seeker may lack or any comparison to the real world figures that represent the number of unemployed sick and disabled people looking for work and the actual number of jobs that are available for people to apply for.

    And finally yes , as you predicted , you do come across as a typical Tory. In fact if it wasn’t for the Liberal in your name I would bet my house that you are one. I wonder if that’s why it’s there…

  • This is getting ridiculous. You people can’t really be liberals. How can liberals possibly be more right wing and closed minded than Boris Johnson. This has gone beyond a joke.

    There are far to many Tory trolls (and why shouldn’t I say Tory Trolls, it seems perfectly ok to bandy about the words labour troll at anyone who is to the left of Thatcher) in the party pretending to be liberals, spouting right wing rhetoric taken from the daily mail worse case scenarios, and david camerons made up 30-40-50000 trying to justify this retributive and ridiculous punishment of -10% in housing benefit.

    This was the party with a social conscience, where have all you people come from that post here and would you please go away and give us our party back.

    More annoyed by the day and now after watching Question time tonight with our supposed representative and Minister spouting vacuous defences and avoiding the 10% question completely and watching Nick at PMQ’s sitting beside David Cameron on question time and doing his nodding dog impersonation at Camerons no turning back on these vindictive measures statement, I have had it.

    I might have had a couple of glasses of white wine tonight, but I don’t think I’m going to feel any different in the morning, I resign, I didn’t join the party to be in a right wing party and I have no interest in remaining in one.

    Amy (Ex Lib Dem)

  • It’s shameful isnt it when Boris Johnson publicly puts the govt on notice while libdems get a newer-heard-of backbencher to voice their feeble concerns. Liam Fox, member of the govt and the cabinet, manages to write stinging letter to the PM while libdems ministers cheerfully do a volte face on their key promises.

    How long before libdems members of the govt grow a spine and get a pair? Forever.

  • Dave Parker 29th Oct '10 - 5:23am

    “the potentially disastrous results of this well-meaning policy”

    This was never a well-meaning policy, in the sense of minimising harm to those affected.

    A well-meaning policy might have looked at capping the high central London allowances, perhaps protecting those with the closest attachment to the area (notably the elderly) while discouraging entrants. A well meaning policy might have looked at easing the tenancy requirements that make many cheaper properties unavailable to claimants, often limiting them to higher rents not of their choosing. A well-meaning policy might have raised the absurdly low allowance for shared accommodation to make that a more practical proposition than far costlier self-contained lets that are more likely to be fully covered. A well-meaning policy might have realigned local rates for different sizes of accommodation to reduce the often absurdly wide spread of values. A well-meaning policy would have addressed the practical obstacles facing claimants rather than compounding the very real difficulty of finding and paying for the cheapest housing.

    But what did we get instead? A mean across-the-board reduction to only the bottom 30% of all (claimant and non-claimant) rents, when (as Matthew correctly suggests – and I can assure him this is very widespread) claimants routinely face higher than average charges. A downright vindictive cut of 10% in the already reduced benefit of those unemployed for a year in what is now widely considered the worst recession since the 1930s, regardless of their efforts to find work. Cuts to the social housing budget when the very absence of such housing has fuelled rent and housing benefit increases. Increases in social rents when people’s ability to pay is being cut.

    Those can’t possibly be considered well-meaning: the lowering of all allowance limits – even in low-rent areas – doesn’t help people to move from more to less expensive districts, and leaves those with low claims as badly off as those in more desirable (or from the taxpayer’s point of view undesirable) locations, while sharers (the cheapest and surely most desirable claimants) remain as severely penalised as ever. The cutting of payments to the long-term jobless is an act of pure malice: jobseekers are already required to submit evidence of their jobsearch efforts, and there’s nothing to prevent the DWP clamping down on the workshy, but instead the government chose to penalise everyone without discrimination, just for the offence of being out of work when it’s hardest to find a job.

    This is a brutal, uncaring policy of which both governing parties should be ashamed. There were ways of reining in the housing benefit bill by encouraging people into more economical arrangements, but merely hitting everyone means there’s no escape, however claimants to comply with realistic aspirations to eliminate excessive costs. For long-term jobseekers there’s a needlessly spiteful succession of cruel blows which will make it harder for them to look for work (often a costly undertaking in itself) and ultimately to keep even the humblest roof over their head. And the hysteria whipped up against claimants has eroded compassion, justice and decency across a broad spectrum of society.

    Please don’t let this happen. The desire to reduce excessive outlays extends across the political spectrum. But there were better, more humane ways of going about this, approaches which weren’t even considered. This is an ill-judged piece of poorly thought-out social engineering which will needlessly blight hundreds of thousands of lives for years to come, perhaps permanently. It needs to be taken back to the drawing-board. We were promised new politics based on co-operation, compromise and fairness. This isn’t fair, and it isn’t just. And if implemented its memory will blight the Coalition’s reputation and that of both parties for decades to come.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 29th Oct '10 - 8:55am

    “Secondly I wouldn’t expect a single person to need a flat to themselves.”

    Or a bed.

    A double bed could quite comfortably accommodate six unemployed men – obviously using a shift system (we wouldn’t want to encourage unnatural vices!).

    But on that subject, do the unemployed really need beds at all, if it means hard-working families have to pay higher taxes? In Victorian times, they slept leaning against a rope slung across the dormitory.

    Obviously this isn’t exactly what the party has advocated in the past, but as the Great Liberal Economist Milton Keynes once said, “When the facts change, I change my principles. What do you change, Sir?” There’s just no answer to that.

  • Dominic Curran 29th Oct '10 - 9:21am

    @ Antony

    didn’t Keynes say ‘when the facts change, i change my mind?’

  • @Amy, 3.27am

    Hope that you’ve had a chance to re-consider your decision – I think your party probably needs people like you more than ever to rescue it from the clutches of its current leadership and people like ‘Liberal’ Neil. This is all so depressingly reminiscent of the hollowing out of Labour’s membership from the late 90s onwards.

  • @Anthony Aloysius St

    There’s no need to send the undeserving poor to Calcutta. Let’s start building workhouses again in every town and every city borough. It’ll wipe billions off the welfare bill and kick start the construction industry. It’ll also give us the additional advantage of knowing where the poor are at any given time when we need to check up on them. You know it makes sense! I’m sure none of the patsies in the Coalition would object.

  • For some reason my previous comments appears to have been removed but here the essence of it.

    ‘Liberals’ like Neil would have backed the highland clearances as a ‘progressive’ measures. Why don’t the Lib Dem go the whole hog and support the reintroduction of work houses that would solve both the issues of housing benefit and unemployment? The orange book extremists don’t realise that while they have forgotten the people in their zeal for their form of economic liberalism the peoplewill not forget them at the ballot box.

  • Dominic Curran 29th Oct '10 - 10:36am

    it’s deeply frustrating that the Tory right, and many of the general public too, are blaming and seeking to punish HB claimants for the massively inflated cost of housing, especially in the south-east and certainly in London. The idea that the poor are swanning about in Notting Hill Gate while us chumps take the train to work from Zone 6 is laughably inaccurate as a general truth, but there is just enough resentment about these days for many to latch onto it and seek to bring claimants down to ‘our level’. The problem isn’t just unscrupulous landlords (not doubt there are a few of those, though) nor workshy scroungers (most HB claimants are in work, but no doubt some are workshy layabouts) but is really, mainly, i would say, a massive, massive shortage of affordable housing. Build more affordable housing and you begin to deal with the root cause of the problem.

    Oh, and i don’t count it as affordable if you have to pay 80% of the market rate in rent.

  • Still recovering from Ed Davey’s performance on QT where he managed to make Boris Johnson sound compassionate and John Redwood as caring. Looking at some of the posts here I feel I am beginning to wonder if I ever truly understood what LibDems where before I stupidly voted for them.

    I feel as if I am in an episode of Dr Who where LibDems turn out to be some form of alien that once in power transform from their previous appearance of liberal, caring, compassionate and economically progressive politics to some form of aggressive, hardline warriors determined to sweep aside all lefties, weak and vulnerable. And who are enjoying doing it! For the die hards here – yes this is tongue in cheek – but lets face it, the Lib Dem MP’s are becoming so tragic you can only laugh or cry. I have shed my last tears for this party – they are becoming quite a nasty party.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 29th Oct '10 - 11:05am

    MacK:
    “Let’s start building workhouses again in every town and every city borough.”

    bryan:
    “Why don’t the Lib Dem go the whole hog and support the reintroduction of work houses that would solve both the issues of housing benefit and unemployment?”

    Indeed. I’ve always thought we could learn a lot from a close study of Victorian values. My sources tell me Eric Pickles is on the job.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 29th Oct '10 - 11:24am

    I never thought I would say this, but I agree with Boris.

    Clegg has objected to what he describes as the “offensive language” used by some critics of this draconian and illiberal policy.

    It’s not the offensiveness of the language that should be concerning us, it’s the offensive policy. Liberal Democrat MPs should be voting against this and Liberal Democrats in the country should be campaigning against it.

    Where Clegg leads I ,for one, will no longer follow.

  • @Liberal Neil
    @ John Fraser

    Where in any of my comments did I say that families living on benefits are living ‘lavish’ lifestyles? I don’t think I have anywhere.

    I do not agree with the Daily Mail’s approach, do not believe claimants are ‘scroungers’, and do not believe people living on benefits are living in luxury.

    And none of the arguments I have put have been based on such points.
    …………………………
    lavish lifestyles…. in your previous post you indicated that you believe that a minority of benefit claimers lived better than the masses on ordinary wages. those who live better than the mases must be at least a little lavish . I did not claim to quote you i simply paraphased your sentiment correctly.

    In an asnwer to someones elses question above you said that a young unemployed person faced with a benefit cut after a year must be able to get some kind of job . Implicit in that (false in my opinion) belief is the fact that he or she must be scrounging off the state, and not reallyv trying to get work .

    You ask how many large families there are . i have read (can’t citate) that there are 9000 with 8 or more kids . that could effect 70-80000 children. Smaller families may be effected too . the large family scenario was just to show how evil vindicive and unworkable this policy is. Not hyperpole just desperation that even long standing and very active party members such as you suddenly need convincing . If you genuinely think someone with 8 kids can AND SHOULD live on £26K a year week in week out when the washinh machine brakes down when the childern need new shoes……. I honestly and genuinely dont know what more I can say to convince you ..but have a think before replying again and tell me whether you REALLY believe that there should be a welfare ceiling on a familiy WITHOUT taking into account its size ?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 29th Oct '10 - 1:01pm

    “If you genuinely think someone with 8 kids can AND SHOULD live on £26K a year week in week out when the washinh machine brakes down when the childern need new shoes……. “

    Washing machines? Shoes?

    Luxury!!!

  • David Allen 29th Oct '10 - 1:17pm

    “I resign, I didn’t join the party to be in a right wing party and I have no interest in remaining in one.
    Amy (Ex Lib Dem)”

    I have a different point of view. I joined a centre-left party led by Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams nearly thirty years ago. Since then I have been a loyal supporter to David Steel, Paddy Ashdown, Charles Kennedy and Ming Campbell, who all held fast to the same basic principles.

    Twenty years ago we had a right-wing usurper who broke that sequence, David Owen. He did a lot of harm, but eventually we saw him off. Now we have another right-wing usurper. He is doing immense harm, but I am sure we shall eventually see him off as well.

    I’m not going to let some upstart orange Tory drive me out of my party. Please stick around and help!

  • Nick (not Clegg) 29th Oct '10 - 2:02pm

    My sentiments exactly, David, although I first joined the Liberal Party in 1962, before Clegg was born.

    Clegg and Cameron are devaluing the word “fair”. If we allow them to do so, that will undermine us next year when we campaign for “fairer votes”

  • @
    “That’s leaving £16 Billion to hit

    Sick, Disabled and Unemployed”

    And hardly anyone is speaking up for us! We are being ignored, there is going to be as much or more hardship as the HB policy because that will be a double whammy for the sick, disabled and unemployed.

  • Stuart Mitchell 29th Oct '10 - 2:18pm

    Thank heavens we have conscientious Tories like Boris Johnson who are prepared to speak up for social justice and rein in the more extreme right wing tendencies of the Lib Dems.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 29th Oct '10 - 2:48pm

    If there is hope, it lies in the trolls.

  • Barry George 29th Oct '10 - 3:10pm

    Yes, the Orwellian reclassification of the word ‘fair’ by this coalition (and it’s supporters) is an ominous sign of their heinous motives.

    This has nothing to do with the deficit. Not one senior politician has stood up and said that any one of these policies will be reversed once the debt has been repaid.

    This is social cleansing of the poor.

  • Barry George 29th Oct '10 - 3:52pm

    @ Matt
    It’s been 5 hrs since I posted what I thought was a fair Analysis of someone’s capabilities to effectively find work , when in receipt of JSA @ £50.90 a week

    I also posted in subsequent posts, break downs of the welfare bill and which departments costed the most.

    Not a single Liberal Democrat, has decided to take up the debate

    I did the same thing (a few weeks ago. in a different thread) with regard to ‘how’ the person on welfare is supposed to move, and to date nobody has answered that question.

    The pro coalition Liberal Democrats here clearly do not care about the pain and suffering that is caused by their implicit support of this coalition.

    So we will continue to see pointless articles that get about 4 comments being used to swiftly move the real debates, such as this one off the front page.

    The only explanation I have been given for the complicit silence by those hiding safely away in the echo chamber of the members forum came from George Kendall. He said that members do not want to be seen as criticising the coalition as this could be picked up on by the media and the public as splits. This fear of being seen to disagree is apparently far more important than the thousands of lives that will be destroyed by their silent support.

    So that which you describe is a fair description of life here on LDV. A barrage of pointless articles, noted only by the lack of comments they receive. Then the occasional article of note that is moved off the front page as swiftly as possible and replaced by the ‘caption of the week’ competition !

    You used to be able to keep up with the real debates by following the recent comments option at the top right. Alas this was removed. Maybe because it kept people debating the painful issues longer than the silent supporters desired.

    See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 29th Oct '10 - 4:13pm

    “I also posted in subsequent posts, break downs of the welfare bill and which departments costed the most.
    Not a single Liberal Democrat, has decided to take up the debate,”

    But is that really necessary?

    Surely we all know how the story goes by now:
    (1) If you present the statistics in a sufficiently outlandish manner, it can be made to look progressive.
    (2) It’s not as bad as what the Tories would have done without the restraining influence of Nick Clegg.
    (3) It’s all Labour’s fault anyway.

  • Barry George 29th Oct '10 - 5:12pm

    Andrew

    Well I can’t speak for other parts of the country but I would start by saying that finding somewhere to live whilst on benefits in London is excruciatingly difficult.

    No DSS is the norm I’m afraid. If you can’t pay the rent in advance, for a long enough period for the council to start paying housing benefit (about 6 weeks) then you won’t even get a viewing, never mind the keys.

    None of the major estate agents take DSS clients as per normal practice. You might occasionally see a property that states ‘DSS accepted’

    Your only realistic option is the private landlord who is not a member of ‘ARLA’, which means that your deposit is not necessarily legally insured and in a considerable number of cases is not returned at all.

    So at a minimum, any government loan would need to include advanced rent, deposit, contract fees and moving fees.

    The amount of money needed to be loaned to each claimant would be considerably more than just the deposit and the tenant (if they currently live in private rented accommodation) is not guaranteed to get their deposit back anyway.

    In my opinion what this loan would amount too is another tax on the poor.

    Take an unemployed person on less than £60 per week

    Force them to move
    Then take away 10% of their housing benefit
    Then give them a loan to pay back as well.

    Once you take away from that meagre £60 per week, you have to ask the question, how little money can we make someone attempt to live on ?

    Sorry, I don’t see how the unemployed person is going to survive, never mind look for work. Which I am sure we agree, is the real objective if you are unemployed.

  • Liberal Neil 29th Oct '10 - 11:08pm

    @ John Fraser. “lavish lifestyles…. in your previous post you indicated that you believe that a minority of benefit claimers lived better than the masses on ordinary wages. those who live better than the mases must be at least a little lavish . I did not claim to quote you i simply paraphased your sentiment correctly.”

    Thank you for acknowledging that I didn’t describe living on benefits as ‘lavish’. You haven’t ‘paraphrased my sentiment correctly’ at all. I believe that a minority of people living on benefits are better off than a substantial number of working people on ordinary wages. I believe this because I have looked at the overall level of benefits some households can claim (which also lead to other benefits in kind because of the way the system works) and compared it to the available data about wage levels. I also believe that there are a large number of working people on relatively low levels of income who struggle to get by. Saying that a minority of benefits claimants are better off than people who are struggling to make ends meet does not equate to saying that people living on benefits live a ‘lavish’ lifestyle.

    “In an answer to someones elses question above you said that a young unemployed person faced with a benefit cut after a year must be able to get some kind of job . Implicit in that (false in my opinion) belief is the fact that he or she must be scrounging off the state, and not reallyv trying to get work . ”

    No, I did not say that. I responded to a hypothetical example of a single 25 year old living in a £150 a week one bedroom flat who had been unemployed for a year, in relation to the fact that they would have to find another £15 a week towards their rent. My first advice was that they should move somewhere cheaper, probably a room in a shared house which is what I lived in when I was 25, (thus reducing the 10% they would have to fund) and I then said that in that situation I would find some work.

    I did not make any general comment about young unemployed people.

    Making specific suggestions about one hypothetical individual does not equate to describing all young unemployed people ‘scroungers’, which is not a word I have ever, or would ever use about benefits claimants.

    It doesn’t seem ‘crypto tory’ to me to think that it is reasonable to ensure that young single unemployed people should be entitled to basic accommodation, but that they should not be entitled to better accommodation than lots of other single 25 year olds provide for themselves. Or are liberals only supposed to be concerned with the unemployed, and not everyone else?

  • Liberal Neil 29th Oct '10 - 11:18pm

    @matt – isn’t there going to be a very large saving from equalising the state retirement age wortn several billions a year? And also the reduction in Family Tax credits for people on high incomes?

  • Liberal Neil 29th Oct '10 - 11:22pm

    @Barry George

    You appear to have taken comments I was making about the overall benefits income of some families compared to other working families and understood them to apply to single people.

    My apologies if I wasn’t clear.

    I think you raise some fair points about the difficulties of being able to afford to move house if you are a single person on benefits. I would hope this will be looked at.

  • Liberal Neil 30th Oct '10 - 9:02am

    @ matt @ Barry – this website does not have Lib Dem staffers waiting to answer points within a given timescale. You shouldn’t necessarily expect to get answers at all, and certainly not within 5 hours.

  • Liberal Neil 30th Oct '10 - 9:05am

    @ matt – thanks – so the Daily Mail’s insane ranting about how unfair it is for women to retire at the same age as men is premature then?

  • Matt – are you really making the point that no other Lib Dems are getting involved here? I have been reading, and I have seen Ruth Bright also involved. David Allen, I assume is a member, he always states that. Perhaps Dominic Curran also is. I have to say, and I rarely know who people are who use soubriquets (although many others claim to know!), if Liberal Neil is who I think he is, I am quite shocked to hear the brand of right wingery he is pushing. Yes, I am afraid it does sound like the Daily Mail, Neil, whatever you may think or however you apologise for it. I know there are people within the Lib Dems who think those sort of things, but I had hoped they were not in positions of real influence. Please tell me that description doesn’t apply to you Neil.

  • Barry George 30th Oct '10 - 5:36pm

    Liberal Neil

    You shouldn’t necessarily expect to get answers at all

    Oh, I gave up on ‘expecting’ answers from pro coalition Liberal Democrat’s on this site long ago. You do occasionally find someone acknowledges that the concerns of a poster are fair or valid. But answers ?

    Well, the answers you get (if you wish to call them that) can all be categorised into the three groups described in the comment made by Anthony above…

    (1) If you present the statistics in a sufficiently outlandish manner, it can be made to look progressive.
    (2) It’s not as bad as what the Tories would have done without the restraining influence of Nick Clegg.
    (3) It’s all Labour’s fault anyway.

    Some may call them answers but they read just like excuses to me

  • The Daily Mail is now trying to stop the ‘hysteria’ on Housing Benefit. In doing so they have ‘reminded’ readers of several families living in high cost accommodation! So again creating the hysteria they like. What is incredibly disturbing tyhat these families seem to be Muslims and one traveller family. Please will Lib Dems and all political parties condemn this, there appears to be a shift now towards immigrants. First of all they were party to the attacks on the sick and disabled and now travellers and Muslims. I see the pattern, do you?

  • Liberal Neil 30th Oct '10 - 9:35pm

    @Tim13 Yes I am sure I am the Liberal Neil you think I am.

    I am very surprised that the idea of limiting Housing Benefit to a maximum of £21K a year is proving so controversial when it is far more than the majority of people spend on housing.

    To me, paying more than that is unfair to the many people on ordinary incomes who live in far less expensive housing than that, who get no help with their housing costs and whose taxes fund other people’s Housing Benefit.

    I don’t see how this view is particularly ‘right wing’, and I think it will be supported by a lot of people across the spectrum.

    I have read a lot of comments about the impact this policy may have on some of the people currently receiving higher housing benefits than this, but no actual justification of how this situation is fair.

    Similarly I think it is unfair that people living on benefits have the opportunity to live in areas where those not on benefits can’t afford to live.

    I don’t see how this view is particularly ‘right wing’, and I think it will be supported by a lot of people across the spectrum.

    Again, I have read a lot of comments about the impact this policy on those who may have to move to somewhere cheaper, but no actual justification of how this situation is fair.

    Similarly I believe it is reasonable that young single people on benefits should be given sufficient Housing Benefit to live in a room in a shared house, as most young single people do, and unfair for them to be entitled to enough Housing Benefit to fund an apartment.

    You may see this as ‘right wing’, I don’t, and I think most people, across the spectrum, probably don’t either.

    It is clear to me that many of the people who take a different view (and I appreciate that there are different views about the concept of ‘fairness’) seem to find it very easy to make big assumptions about the views of those who disagree with them, and appear to believe that you are either ‘caring’ or that you are a Daily Mail believing right wing headcase and that there is no room for anyone to hold views somewhere in between the two. For example I happen to believe that there are a lot of people claiming JSA who are genuinely actively seeking work and others who are not. I wouldn’t describe the latter as ‘scroungers’, and I actually think they are as much victims of the system as the former. Is this a ‘right wing’ view? Do those who have been arguing with me here believe that everybody claiming JSA is genuinly doing their best to find work?

    My general view is that we do need a welfare state that protects people from poverty when they are in times of need, and that includes ensuring that they have access to basic housing and enough money to live on. Defining what this level is, or what poverty means, is not, of course, a simple task (I find this site sets out the issues very clearly http://www.poverty.org.uk/summary/social%20exclusion.shtml).

    To me, however, believing in the principles behind the welfare state does not mean refusing to challenge whether the current welfare state is actually achieving its aims.

    During the last five years the proportion of households with children in poverty has risen, despite substantial increases in welfare spending, and this increase has been almost entirely amongst working families on relatively low incomes.

    Is it therefore ‘right wing’ to argue that this group might be being treated unfairly by the current system?

    Since 2001 the group of people most likely, by far, to remain in long-term unemployment, is under 25 year olds.

    Is it therefore ‘right wing’ to question whether current policies are doing enough to get under 25s into work?

    There is a huge amount of evidence that in the long term the most effective way to lift people out of poverty is for them to work.

    Is it therefore ‘right wing’ to argue that the tax and benefits system should provide greater incentives for people to work?

    A lot of very useful points have been made during the thread about some of the potential difficulties with the proposals. A lot of these relate to the problems that may be caused by the transition from one system to another, and I think the Government is going to have to look at how this is handled very carefully.

    But I believe that the basic approach of limiting the level of rent that can be claimed, even if that means people may have to move, and expecting people to live in a stanadard of accommodation that their working contemporaries live in, is reasonable.

    I feel strongly that a fair system should ensure that those who are working should be better off than those who are not, and that the system at present does not achieve this. I don’t believe this because I want to see those not working ‘punished’, but because I want to see those who work rewarded for it.

    Again, some of you here may see this as ‘right wing’, I don’t, and I suspect Beveridge wouldn’t either.

    He set out the third principle of his report as follows:

    “The third principle is that social security must be achieved by co-operation between the State and the individual. The State should offer security for service and contribution. The State in organising security should not stifle incentive, opportunity, responsibility ; in establishing a national minimum, it should leave room and encouragement for voluntary action by each individual to provide more than that minimum for himself and his family.”

    I agree with this, but I believe that current system is failing to achieve it. Presumably this makes me ‘right wing’ too?

  • Liberal Neil 30th Oct '10 - 9:40pm

    @matt “Neil I would prefer to stick to the topic that this thread is about “Housing Benefit””

    I’m happy to do that, but I was responding to your point about the balance between different parts of the benefits system and your list of how the welfare budget breaks down!

  • Barry George 30th Oct '10 - 10:24pm

    @ Liberal Neil

    Again, I have read a lot of comments about the impact this policy on those who may have to move to somewhere cheaper, but no actual justification of how this situation is fair.

    What seems unfair to me is your isolated use of the word ‘fair’

    Many things in life are not fair.

    A person being made unemployed, (regardless of the house they live in) due to a world wide recession, that they didn’t cause’ is unfair.

    But lets look at the bigger picture…

    50 percent of the worlds population are women, yet they own less than 1 percent of the worlds wealth. That’s unfair

    Worse still, the richest 2 percent of adults in the world own more than half of global household wealth, now that’s unfair….

    I wont go on …

    What’s my point ?

    That the distribution of wealth within a capitalist society is in itself, unfair, and that there are many way’s to address this problem.

    What is fair (to me) is to intend to make life more fair for those at the bottom of the ladder.

    What you have fixated on is an unfairness that someone happens to lose their job whilst living in a nicer house and strangely , you see the unfairness created by the unemployed person and not, for example, the unfairness that the employed person can’t live in a nicer house ? Or that the owner’s of the company he works for earn 100 times his salary..

    I am all in favor of your desire to make the world more fair. I just don’t understand how you think this will be achieved by taking away from the vulnerable first.

    Why not push for more affordable housing ?
    Why not Cap what private landlords can charge for a property ?
    Why not argue for mass job creation schemes to give these people a real job to look forward to ?
    Why not pay off the debt more slowly ?
    Why not consider the progressive aspect of income tax ?

    But why , oh why , go after the unemployed in your crusade for fairness ?

    That just doesn’t seem fair!

    And that’s why it can be seen as ‘right wing’.

  • John Fraser 31st Oct '10 - 9:22am

    @Liberal neil
    I then said that in that situation I would find some work.

    ……………..#
    Happy to accept your clarification about you not believing the unemployed are living lavish lifestyles. I still dont think you get what your saying with the (If I was unemployed for a year)…..I would just get some work’ phrase . Dont you think that is what the vast majorityof people are trying to do Neil ?? and if they are trying why penalise them in such a spiteful way ?

    Wish you had answered the main thrust of my post which was about the impossibility of very large families surviving on £26K

  • Thanks, Neil. My mention of right-wingery was meant to sting – and it clearly has. Barry George has made some cogent points about fairness in his recent post, but one thing stood out. Don’t hit the vulnerable first! By the way, you are still making the (deliberate?) mistake of mixing up LHA / HB recipients with the unemployed, which of course, could well be an Express / Mail type of mistake. Another principle I would have thought close to a Liberal’s heart would be ‘Don’t hit the have nots when they haven’t got much in the way of options’.

    “To me, however, believing in the principles behind the welfare state does not mean refusing to challenge whether the current welfare state is actually achieving its aims.”

    Like you, I agree with that as an idea, but quite frankly, that has never been an issue for either of the two parties which have previously administered the Welfare State – neither should it be for us. Previous Governments have made considerable changes. These changes, however, at a financially stressful time are some of the toughest we have seen in our lifetimes. You quote, deliberately, the £21,000 top whack 5 bed house for big families, of which there are very few, again another Mail tactic. You have learned your trade of writing leaflets well! Of course I don’t disagree that:

    “It is clear to me that many of the people who take a different view (and I appreciate that there are different views about the concept of ‘fairness’) seem to find it very easy to make big assumptions about the views of those who disagree with them, and appear to believe that you are either ‘caring’ or that you are a Daily Mail believing right wing headcase and that there is no room for anyone to hold views somewhere in between the two.”

    But surely it is easy just to take views most people agree with, even if they parrot them from The Sun or the Mail, commit them to a leaflet and shove them through doors. The more difficult task, I have always found, is to ensure we tell people when we disagree with The Sun etc. Surely you have found that challenge?

    For a Lib Dem critique of other aspects of the current proposals, I am sure you will read Adrian Sanders’s analysis in his recent article here. These proposals, and other areas we will be administering as a party will provide great challenges, and will put us through the fire. But to just give up on our principles before a fight (which many people out there, and on here, think) would not reflect much credit on us. People are struggling to understand what we represent now, without capitulating on very harsh treatment of the vulnerable in society.

  • Liberal Neil 1st Nov '10 - 2:26pm

    @ John Fraser

    “Wish you had answered the main thrust of my post which was about the impossibility of very large families surviving on £26K”

    You suggested taking some time to think about that one, which I am doing.

  • Liberal Neil 1st Nov '10 - 3:03pm

    @ John Fraser

    One of the problems of discussing these issues is that it is very easy to interpret a comment someone makes as meaning more than it does, or as having an intent behind it which isn’t necessarily there.

    For what it is worth my view is that amongst those who claim JSA there is a wide range of attitudes. I do believe there are a lot of people genuinly looking for work and the figures for duration of JSA claims demonstrate that this is the case. The majority of JSA claimants claim for less than 6 months, and the vast majority for less than a year. This suggests that a) most JSA claimants are seeking work and b) there are jobs out there.

    There are particular groups where the figures are different – including the over 50s and the under 25s.

    I happen to believe that there are also some people claiming JSA that are not genuinly looking for work. I believe this probably applies to more under 25s than over 50s, in fact I know some of them.

    Do you believe that there are no under 25 year olds claiming JSA who are not genuinly trying to find work?

    In which parts of the country do you think there are no jobs at all through which an under 25 year old could not at least a few hours work each week?

  • Liberal Neil 1st Nov '10 - 3:39pm

    @ Tim 13 “By the way, you are still making the (deliberate?) mistake of mixing up LHA / HB recipients with the unemployed, which of course, could well be an Express / Mail type of mistake.”

    No I haven’t. I am well aware of the differences between HB receipients and unemployed people (and indeed between the different categories of unemployed), and ,from what they have said so far, which of the new rules will apply to which.

    I have been surprised that some of the people arguing the other way did not understand some of the basics – like the suggestion that people with mortgages on low incomes could claim HB!

    “Another principle I would have thought close to a Liberal’s heart would be ‘Don’t hit the have nots when they haven’t got much in the way of options’.”

    Absolutely, but part of the debate is surely about how you define the ‘have nots’ against the ‘have a bit but not a lot’, the ‘are basically fine’ and the ‘have money coming out of their ears’. All HB claimants after these reforms will be entitled to continue to claim HB, it is not being removed. Many HB claimants, depending on the make up of their household and other circumstances will be on incomes higher than other working households of a similar make up. How do you define the ‘have nots’? How does your definition of ‘have nots’ compare to HB recipients overall? What sensible definition of ‘have nots’ includes a lot of people living in households above the national average household income?

    “You quote, deliberately, the £21,000 top whack 5 bed house for big families, of which there are very few, again another Mail tactic.”

    That is because I have been arguing against people who say that that specific policy is unfair and will do major damage. There are separate arguments about that specific policy and the other policies at issue and I have done my best to keep them separate.

    “But surely it is easy just to take views most people agree with, even if they parrot them from The Sun or the Mail, commit them to a leaflet and shove them through doors. The more difficult task, I have always found, is to ensure we tell people when we disagree with The Sun etc. Surely you have found that challenge?”

    I agree with you on this point. For example I will continue to argue against the use of contorl orders regardless of whether the Mail/Express/Sun agree with them or not. I don’t, however, see how that point is relevant to this debate.

    “For a Lib Dem critique of other aspects of the current proposals, I am sure you will read Adrian Sanders’s analysis in his recent article here. These proposals, and other areas we will be administering as a party will provide great challenges, and will put us through the fire.”

    I’ve read Adrian’s article and I think he has some very useful points.

    “But to just give up on our principles before a fight (which many people out there, and on here, think) would not reflect much credit on us.”

    I would welcome a discussion about the principles of this. What principles should we base HB on? Do people have a right to continue living in a particular area regardless of how much HB it costs? If not, at what level do you set the cap? Or should HB provide enough money for people to live in adequate housing, even if they have to move? Why do we support the housing costs of people living in private rented accommodation but not in their own property, even if some of the latter are worse off overall than the former?

    “People are struggling to understand what we represent now, without capitulating on very harsh treatment of the vulnerable in society.”

    Now you appear to confusing HB clamiants with ‘the vulnerable’. Being on HB does not equate with being amongst the most vulnerable. There are people who claim HB who are vulnerable, there are people who claim HB who are not vulnerable and there are people who don’t claim HB who are vulnerable. The same applies to the benefits sytem overall.

    How do you define ‘vulnerable’ in this context?

  • Barry George 2nd Nov '10 - 1:48am

    Neil

    There are people who claim HB who are vulnerable

    Ah, so you acknowledge that at least some people on HB are vulnerable.

    Yet you still wish them to find a way to raise the funds to move out of their house and to lose 10% of their housing benefit if they are unemployed for 12 months.

    You didn’t answer my previous post so I ask you again. In the light of you acknowledging that there are some vulnerable people in question here.

    How is it “FAIR” to pick on these vulnerable people and in fact make them more vulnerable by our actions?

    That doesn’t seem fair to me…

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