Welfare cuts

As I have often mentioned on this website, the biggest single current budget in Whitehall is the welfare budget. (£200 billion). It’s the one Labour rarely talks about, and does little to manage downwards.

I am all in favour of generous treatment of the very ill, the disabled and the disadvantaged. I also wish to see many more people currently on benefits helped and incentivised into work.

The Conservatives have come up with a raft of proposals that combine help for the willing and a tougher regime for the unwilling. They have made it clear that if people refuse a job they could do, they will lose their entitlement to benefit. They have said that people on long term benefit will be given work to do for the benefit, which will help them gain experience and the discipline of work to reassure a future employer. Combined with much stricter control of numbers of new economic migrants and illegal immigrants, this policy should start to make inroads into the unacceptably high levels of unemployment.

Positive measures to stimulate small enterprise, to get the banks lending again, and to start to bring the regulatory and tax burdens on small and medium sized enterprise down should create more job opportunities for the out of work.

The UK cannot afford to have well over 5 million people of working age on benefits without a job.

It was good news yesterday to see a Great Repeal Bill announced as a first measure for a new Conservative led Parliament, in the Sunday Times. As one of those who has urged this on the leadership, it was great to see it has survived the drafting of the first Queen’s Speech. The Economic Policy Review contained many ideas for the items that could be included in it. ID cards and Home Information Packs are prominent in the early lists, but there are many other measures from the last thirteen years that have raised our costs, complicated our lives but not brought worthwhile benefits which should also be cast on the bonfire.

Promoted by Chrisitne Hill on behalf of John Redwood, both of 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU

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55 Comments

  1. Stuart Fairney
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Annual borrowing was projected at £178B, welfare spend £200B. So we face ruin to pay the dole? I am a simple soul but but a rather more draconian approach than the one you suggest seems not only obvious but frankly, essential.

    (And yes, I say this as someone who was kicked out of work in 2008 following the economic downturn and is yet to turn a profit from the company I started. Don't even start me on the code for sustainable homes I'm now grappling with).

    • A.Sedgwick
      Posted May 4, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      The reality is the annual deficit could be cut at a few strokes. Small businesses and their owners have to make draconian cuts to survive or sometimes not, why the state should be any different is beyond me. Welfare, overseas aid, Afghanistan, EU payments, illegal immigrants' costs, state employee numbers and pensions, climate change costs for a start. Think Norway, Switzerland, Singapore.

  2. Mike Stallard
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Why not bring back stamps? As you earn, you get stamps. No stamps, no dole. (I have been on the dole, remember, for some ten years).

    Mr Blair betrayed the reform of welfare which he had promised by putting Harriet Harman to control Frank Field. I do hope that, if elected, David Cameron will not do the same thing with IDS. Just press the starter button and let him rip!

    Oh- and make life harder for the disabled too. Parking? Huge unnecessary payments? "Stress related" illnesses? Taking time off work. Make it hard to get the benefits. And make the benefits fit for people who really need them – by reducing them so that it pays to work.

    I am very very sad to say that my Polish students are learning very quickly how to milk the system and to avoid work. Having babies is one sure way. Another, of course, is the housing freebie.

    All this must be tightened up. Fast. Being on the dole should be shameful, not a "human right". Being "disabled" should be a tragic situation, not a way of jumping the queue.

    • Tim
      Posted May 3, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      "Oh- and make life harder for the disabled too."

      As a deaf person who has been unemployed for 15 years, my life is already hard enough, thanks very much.

      I am educated to degree level, but employers do not want to employ deaf people. Don't take it out on me. Examine how hard it is now to get ESA:
      http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/press_20100323

      Here's an example from that link:

      "A Wiltshire bureau reported that a client with Parkinson’s disease had both physical and cognitive difficulties. He went for a WCA and was found fit for work despite being unable to stand for longer than 10 minutes, a tendency to fall, deteriorating speech and concentration – he slurred his words and could not control saliva, and had very poor short term memory, with inability to recall conversations that happened a few hours previously. His mental health had also suffered because of his difficulties."

      This is how disabled people are being treated right now.

      • Mike Stallard
        Posted May 3, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

        I too am wearing a deaf aid. Very annoying. But I can still teach and do coaching. I am using my computer to try and set up a school under the Conservative plans if they are elected. You can do an awful lot.
        Now be honest.
        When did you last see a fit young man leap out of the car in a disabled spot? Or someone suddenly stop limping along on their crutches when using Ryanair? Or someone living in a huge house because of housing allowance? Why has the number of disabled people grown so fast that it exceeds the number of war wounded in 1918?
        We are becoming a nation of supplicants. And that is outrageous.

        • Tim
          Posted May 3, 2010 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

          "I too am wearing a deaf aid. Very annoying."

          It's a hearing aid and you are hard of hearing. There is a world of difference between that and being deaf. Hearing aids cannot correct deafness, I need a sign language interpreter.

          "But I can still teach and do coaching. I am using my computer to try and set up a school under the Conservative plans if they are elected."

          This is the attitude problem of many Tories – 'things worked out for me, therefore anybody for whom things do not work out must be delinquent in their endeavours.'

          "You can do an awful lot."

          I know I can but prejudiced employers won't let me! An RNID survey found that employers are kinder to applicants with a criminal record than deaf people.

          "Now be honest.
          When did you last see a fit young man leap out of the car in a disabled spot? Or someone suddenly stop limping along on their crutches when using Ryanair? Or someone living in a huge house because of housing allowance? Why has the number of disabled people grown so fast that it exceeds the number of war wounded in 1918?
          We are becoming a nation of supplicants."

          The honest answer is that I am not interested in anecdotal "evidence." The latest figures on Incapacity Benefit fraud released by the DWP show that it is running at a low 1%.

          "And that is outrageous."

          The only thing that is outrageous is your offensive comment asking John to 'make life harder for the disabled too.' There is one thing worse than a bully and that is a bully who picks on disabled people.

        • John M
          Posted May 14, 2010 at 10:23 am | Permalink

          Why has the number of disabled people grown so fast that it exceeds the number of war wounded in 1918?

          The number of disabled hasn't risen. The number of disabled people on disability benefits has.

          For example, NI based IVB was introduced in September 1971. In order to claim successfully it was necessary to be both sufficiently disabled and have paid sufficient NI contributions in the preceeding two years. This meant that anyone born after 1905 and disabled prior to 1969 was excluded. IVB was for new claims only so that in 1973, 380,000 claimants represented the first couple of years intake. In 1979, 633,000 claimants represented only eight years intake. It would take over forty years for equilibrium to be reached and the number of claimants be more representative of the level of disability in the country.

          The government seems not to realise this or more likely pretend not to.

          -J

  3. Amanda
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Really excellent news on the Great Repeal Bill; together with ideas on welfare, the broken society, localism and education. My vote is now with the Conservatives. But, if Cameron continues his 'fruit and vegetable' insults, I'll be gone again.

    I'm still angry about the EU, and something must be done about our soverignty – more importantly the money we cannot afford to give the 'colleagues'. I also would like to see real action on immigration, and a recognition that climate change is, at the very minimum, an unknown and we should not be instigating damaging policies and schemes that benefit European criminal gangs. I have no problem with sensible energy policies that make us self-sufficient (not those that make us dependent on rare earths from China for diddly squat electricity) and real environmental husbanding – including looking after rivers, instead of forsaking flood defences to save colonies of rare 'creatures'.

  4. no one
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    most folk on welfare live on sink estates far away from any potential jobs

    you list some "sticks" but you need some "carrots" too

    encourage mobility, in the state housing sector, in nhs appointments, and so on

    folk who have worked all their life and have a few weeks or months of need should be treated much better than folk who have spent their entire life living off the state

    folk need training if they were brought up in an area with a crap school and they by defition had no chance by virtue of the non education they had

    stop issuing work visas to non EC nationals, especially they Indian outsourcers, and force employers to train Brits up

  5. KelvinKid
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    "They have made it clear that if people refuse a job they could do, they will lose their entitlement to benefit."

    This has been the case for at least the last 60 years. It is indicative of your greater ignorance that you do not know that.

    Reply: I think you are out of touch with how the present system works.

    • SJB
      Posted May 3, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      The DWP have long had the power to sanction a jobseeker if he refuses a job without good cause : see rule 34013 of Decision Makers' Guide ("DMG"). http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/dmgch34.pdf

      I suspect the reason sanctions are not applied vigorously is because it only needs a small proportion of sanctioned claimants to resort to crime for the combined costs of police investigation, criminal prosecution, and possible imprisonment to exceed the £60 or so per week benefit – thus increasing public expenditure.

      What has most surprised me most about the election campaign is how little time has been focused on the one million unemployed in the 18-24 age bracket. Thousands of these survived secondary education and obtained degrees. Far better, I would have thought, to train these in how to start a small business than have them traipsing down to Jobcentre every two weeks and in the process damaging their mental health.

    • DavidB
      Posted May 3, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      This one has always seemed a no brainer to me. The state should not give money to those out of work, they should give them jobs. It is better to pay a man to dig a hole and another to fill it back in than for either of them to be idle.

      Those who wish not to work will be free not to work. Those who have other jobs will be free to work at those jobs or be given labour by the state. We accept the dignity of labour as a right, and we accept our Christian duty to help those less well off than ourselves. And no-one gets to live by stealing the taxes of his fellow citizen.

      Give people jobs. Not money to sit at home.

  6. Kevin Peat
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    So long as we are in the EU there isn't much we can do about immigration, regardless of what Mr Cameron says.

    So long as we have ANY form of welfare (which, incidentally, we are obliged to share fully with new entrants of one year standing) people will flock to these shores to either do the unskilled work of those already on benefits or to reap those benefits directly for themselves.

    The painful truth is that we must either leave the EU or get rid of benefits altogether (or both) if we are to stem the tsunami of immigration.

    If this turns into a double-dip we'll soon be in the position where many more working and middle class will be seeking their entitlement only to find that the cupboard is bare – how do you think they're going to react after all these years of government largesse to the undeserving and the downright criminal ? Stay at home peacefully ?

    During the Trafalgar Square Poll Tax demo I was a riot officer holding a shield. I didn't ever expect that one day I'd turn into someone who'd be on the other side of it.

    You must at least give us our say on EU membership. We want our country back.

    • Mark
      Posted May 3, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      Immigration from the EU is the source of a huge myth. According to the ONS there has meet net immigration of 286,000 from A8 countries between accession in 2004 and 2008. That is 96,000 more than the total immigration from the EU over Labour years (1997 to 2008). If transitional controls had been implemented, net migration from the EU would have been close to zero or even negative. As it is, EU migration has never been more than 40% of the total – and averages under a third. It's safe to predict that as transitional controls expire in 2011, many A8 migrants will head to Germany and France where they will have better opportunities (and be closer to home).

      Perhaps a more important EU migration issue for the UK is the number of students who come here and take advantage of student loans which they never repay once they return to their own countries, because these loans are recouped through the tax system here. There's nothing wrong about EU students coming here (indeed, it's desirable) – but UK taxpayers shouldn't be asked to absorb the costs. There were 40,000 students from the EU who arrived in 2008 (not that all of them will have taken out student loans).

      • alan jutson
        Posted May 3, 2010 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

        Mark

        Yes student loans for those who come from afar was given some space in the national press a few weeks ago.

        I have to say I was more than surprised they even qualified.

        It would appear it is up to their own governments when they get back home after study here, to chase up these loans for payback to the UK (when they earn more than the £15,000 necessary for payback) needless to say, few ever get to pay it back so it seems.

        Are we daft or what !!!!!!!

        No, please do not answer that, you really could not make it up could you..

      • Kevin Peat
        Posted May 3, 2010 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

        I hasten that I am not against immigration – just uncontrolled immigration … and most certainly where they are being allowed in to do work that people claiming benefits should be doing but are rendered wholly useless by our failed education system. There are many abuses of the British taxpayer through 'tourism' – especially in the NHS.

        I am skeptical about the ONS. Especially since the time that I took part in collecting data for the census. I'm much more inclined to believe my own eyes and ears … and nose since the time that I had to unblock our communal drains because a newly arrived neighbour (unfamiliar with toilets) had taken to flushing disposable nappies down the loo.

        The 'myth' you talk about is going to take some putting to bed. Better have a media black out.

  7. Richard
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    The Great Repeal Bill is a wonderful idea. I think along with the proposal to put all public expenditure over £25k online it will mean a Conservative government could make a really radical change of direction. The Conservatives should try in the next few days to get an online campaign going for the public to make suggestions as to which of Labour's 3000+ new laws should be repealed. What about starting with those restricting free speech, so grossly & increasingly abused by the various 'equality' lobbies?

    • no one
      Posted May 4, 2010 at 2:52 am | Permalink

      I'd like to see all work visas, intra company transfer visas, and indefinite leave to remain applications and decisions put online

      let the people see precisely whats going on

  8. Parlour Pachyderm
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    The vast majority of the people you're speaking of are not capable of working in any other setting than a regulated, menial one where everything is organised for them.

    We don't have 5 million work places that offer this kind of sheltered employment anymore, because those very businesses moved to low wage/tax countries where regulation is not as stringent and unionisation is unheard of and manners are more co-operative and simple in general.

    And can you blame the business people who don't want to have to babysit our surely chavs, when in other countries, subsistence farmers cue for those kind of jobs?

    There is a saying that one can discern a good tailor by what they can do for their fattest customer. Maybe one can discern a good politician by what they can do for the least capable of our society?

  9. Antisthenes
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Your remarks and the more detailed information of Conservative policies emerging, better late then never, are very encouraging and point to a Conservative government starting to tackle the economic problems in the right way. Whichever party or parties becomes the next government they are in for a roller coaster ride and the chances of a double dip recession is more likely than not given the legacy of the previous governments disastrous economic policies. Which leads me onto your remark "to get the banks lending again" that is a tall order and one that politicians of all parties rant on about, which makes me think that politicians are not on the same planet as everyone else. Banks are not going to lend again in an uncertain climate or when they are being pulled in two directions being told to curb their naughty ways and be prudent and at the same time take greater risk lending to businesses who have no certainty of staying in business even if they look viable at the moment. No any strategy aimed at recovery should discount the banks as being part of the remedy.

  10. Acorn
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    In the "Great Repeal Bill", I understand there will be some clauses on employment law, start with getting rid of TUPE 2006 and its affected legislation. Mind you TUPE, and the whole rat's nest of employment law, is based on EU Directives, gold plated by Whitehall. Probably easier to leave the EU.

    BTW. After my post yesterday about BIS Public Debt, I fired up the calculator. Based on UK market price GDP being circa £1330 billion, and the numbers in table 3 of the BIS document, I get the following.

    BIS says, UK government's "primary balance" is minus 9% of GDP; about £120 billion DEFICIT. (Primary balance = government spend – debt interest payments – government income; circa 704 – 43 – 541).

    According to BIS we need a budget SURPLUS of 5.8% of GDP to stabilise the debt, over ten years, at the level we had in 2007. Now that comes to circa £197 billion. If we take the slow train for twenty years; that is still £166 billion.

    Help me out here JR; I may have got this all wrong. Does this mean that the government's average annual spend; before debt interest payments; has to be reduced from (704 – 43) – 197 = £464 billion. Leaving £77 billion a year, (541 – 464), to pay the interest and principal on our debts, assuming no increase in tax income?

    Reply: Sounds high, unless interest rates rise rapidly.

  11. alan jutson
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Sounds good so far, but lets see if you get a working majority after Thursday, and then lets see some skin on the bones.

  12. Paul from MK UK
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    "It was good news yesterday to see a Great Repeal Bill announced … "
    Yes, this is indeed good news. (I think I know the source of these 'new' ideas: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Plan-Twelve-Months-Renew-

    There seems to be one important repeal missing, however – The Lisbon Treaty.

  13. Martin
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    The good thing about a Great Repeal Bill (although I suspect to give the parliamentary draughtsmen enough time to write the thing properly it will take a number of bills) is that there is much stuff that even a minority government could get passed while doing the hard stuff via the budget.

    Re the EU treaties and concerns that some folks on here have – the next government should take a look at how a lot of countries in the continent do things under the same rules. (for example a little bit of snow does not close every school in a county in Denmark or Sweden who are also in the EU – UK schools/councils take note). Stopping over the top interpretation is free!

  14. Steve Cox
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Could you please ask George Osborne et al to include a repeal of the pernicious and deeply unfair IR35? Give me a level playing field with the big boys, and who knows, I might even consider coming back to the UK to work and start paying taxes there again. The last year I was resident in the UK I paid more than £50K in tax and NI. Since I closed down my company and left the UK as a direct result of IR35, the Treasury has received not a penny. That's a no-brainer, isn't it John?

    Reply: it is in my list for repeal, and I hope it will be included in the main list.

  15. Olaf
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Unemployment benefits should be promoted as temporary. And I think they should be vouchers so that they cannot be used for mobile phone contracts, fags or booze. Lefties will complain that this is humiliating to the individual and infringes their human rights. I'd argue anything else infringes the rights of the tax paying majority.

    Housing benefits should also be vouchers to stop that money being spent elsewhere.

    The unemployed must be expected to attend the job centre and make efforts to gain employment. Non-attendance should result in criminal convictions with appropriate sanctions. Same for mouthing off at the staff or taking a chav tantrum.
    Those who make real efforts towards getting employment should be rewarded, maybe some cash, maybe relax their requirements.

    The word 'entitlements' should be banned from government publications. Benefits are a gift not a right.

    Stop handing out flats to teenage mothers, make them stay with their parent/parents. The teenage pregnancy rate will drop rapidly when it's no longer seen as a shortcut onto the housing benefit list.

    Cut back on the junkets for quangos even if you can't dump the quango straight away.

    • no one
      Posted May 3, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

      Re "The unemployed must be expected to attend the job centre" what and waste their time? anyone with any real experience will know that finding a job involves looking around a lot of places and prioritising your time carefully, any time spent near a jobcentre is time not spent talking to real potential employers

      job centres are a waste of time, they dont meet the needs of any demographic of job seeker, and the dont help potential employers

    • James Clover
      Posted May 3, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      Though I'm inclined to agree with a hard line when it comes to benefits, especially for those who are clearly just milking the system, I also believe that thrre just are not, and will not be, the jobs in this country to employ more than a certain percentage of the population.
      The present rate of unemplyment is not a genuine figure: too many Public Sector jobs have been created just to lessen the dole queues, and will inevitably go in the next year or two.
      The problem is actually much worse than merely a matter of getting tough with the workshy. We just cannot produce enough employment to support our rapidly growing population, and I really can't see a way out of this.
      Poor old politicians, having to be optimistic and looking to the future!

      • no one
        Posted May 4, 2010 at 2:15 am | Permalink

        we need a strategy for how we compete in the world

        we cannot compete against the lowest wages of the 3rd world, we need to compete as a 1st world nation with significant IP in which we invest and protect, we need to protect our people from anyone stealing the countries IP and flooding into the country from the 3rd world, we need to go back to paying our way by 1) innovating and protecting our new innovative IP 2) being the best 3) efficient highly automated techniques 4) the best customer service

        etc

    • JimF
      Posted May 3, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

      The welfare system has indeed enormous potential for savings. Society really has to see returns for paying out these benefits, whether the recipient does training, some community work or actually gets a low-paid job.
      The taps just need turning off, and money needs re-directing into work-related infrastructure, so that independence can be built from the bottom of Society up to meet those who are independent and create wealth at the top of Society. It will take a great change of attitude and is a million miles from the Libdem and probably some way from the current Tory view, but it is the only way out.

      • no one
        Posted May 4, 2010 at 2:11 am | Permalink

        actually many of them would like to do training but are prevented from doing so by rules which require them to "be available for work" such nonsense needs sweeping away so that folk are able to "do the right thing" for themselves and society

        • alan jutson
          Posted May 4, 2010 at 10:26 am | Permalink

          no one

          Agreed, my Daughter age 33 who was made redundant recently, asked about training courses to increase her already good computer skills.

          She was told if you go on one then your benefits will be stopped, as you are deemed unable to work, no matter if you are still looking for a job whilst training (searching for a job via the computer at home in the evenings) and would stop any training if a job was found.

          The system is wrong, and needs to be reworked.

          The Job Center for a start should be called the Benefits Centre, for I am told it offers very little to get people back to work, other than the threat of removing benefits.

  16. TimC
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    A whole load of small pernicious regulation needs sweeping away. Why for heavens sake can't you sell goldfish to children for example?
    Vouchers for benefits would be a good idea, it would be 'extending Labour's voucher scheme (currently only for asylum seekers) to all benefit recipients for (say) 60% of their benefit.'

  17. Bob
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    Cut back the welfare handouts and the rest will take care of itself.

    The generous UK benefits system is a magnet for immigrants, it acts as a disincentive to many natives to fend for themselves and funds the explosion of single mothers all the way down to school age.

    And before anyone starts the usual hair splitting, I'm not referring to the disabled.

    I work hard and pay tax, and on my days off I clean the car, mow the lawn and attend to all the other maintainence jobs that need doing. At the same time I'm paying for other people to sit around watching Sky Sports and Eastenders on their plasma TV screen that I paid for. In a sensible country, these people would be politely offering to clean my car, tend my garden and do the other jobs that need doing to EARN the money that they need.

    God makes enough food for all the birds, but he doesn't throw it into their nests.

    People must start taking responsibility for themselves.

    I've lost count of the number of people I've seen with grotesque facial piercings and tatoos which would make them unemployable is many businesses, for example as receptionists, sales reps and customer service related jobs. This kind of self disqualification wouldn't last long outside of a welfare protection bubble.

    • no one
      Posted May 4, 2010 at 2:09 am | Permalink

      you just make yourself sound like a idiot when you rant like this

      some of our biggest earning musicians paying significant amounts of tax walk around with grotesque facial piercings and tatoos, and many folk on more modest incomes dont fit the stereotypical worker image you imagine

      i really dont think your simplistic view of the world maps much to the real world

      im all for supporting the folk paying their way in the world but a simplistic view of who we think is contributing is way off the mark

      im all for industries that make money but dont require all the workers to turn up in a shirt and tie, we need to be friendly to them all

      • Bob
        Posted May 4, 2010 at 9:37 am | Permalink

        I merely made the observation that self mutilation would diminish outside of a welfare bubble.

        Do you disagree?

        (no need for name calling, lets try to have a grown up conversation)

        • no one
          Posted May 4, 2010 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

          depends

          folk at art college often get some "self mutilation" and I observe that most of them end up contributing to society, working in the arts, in recording studios, in theatres, so much stuff that doesnt need a shirt and tie image

          i observe places like brighton where much of the workforce look a little different shall we say

          all im saying is that many of these folk are absolutley worthy of our support

          i spend a lot of time on the biggest social housing estates dependant on the "welfare bubble" and on the whole the folk in these places conform to the typical old underclass dress sense, not much "self mutilation" in evidence

          so i dont prentend to know the answer to you question, i just think its a lot more complicated than your simplistic observation

        • Chris H
          Posted May 5, 2010 at 10:14 am | Permalink

          I'm with Bob on this one. There is nothing wrong, for example, with making a little effort to look neat and tidy for a job interview. The problem these days is that people have an attitude of "it doesn't matter what I look like, it's about what I can do that matters".
          That may be so, but these people, if they are indeed so clever, would improve their lot even further by just taking a little thought and care over their personal appearance. It doesn't cost much; and if someone truly is hard-up for decent clothes, then just wear the tidiest and cleanest that you have got.
          Here's a real-life example; a local farm-shop owner recently told us that he refused to buy stock from a young salesman who called on him, because he had clearly "just come out of the pub after lunch", adding that the young man hadn't even bothered to put his tie back on. Sorry folks, but presentation still counts.

  18. Posted May 3, 2010 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    is it not true what Michael Portillo said on Channel 4's debate last night with Jon Snow that all any new government can hope to achieve is to slow the annual increase in public expenditure rather than to effect real cuts in public spending?

    • simon
      Posted May 4, 2010 at 12:53 am | Permalink

      I didn't see Michael Portillo last night but it does make you wonder .

      For the average or below average worker there appear to be only sticks , no carrot .

      Consider a man and a woman leaving education now at 21 years of age , expected to be economically active for the next 47 years retiring at 68 and both living to 85 .

      Say that due to unemployment , committements to raising children and health issues they are only in work for 66.6% of their potential 94 wage-years , ie 62 wage years . Say they make average wages .

      Suppose 8% of their net income goes on travelling to and from work and 2% on cellphone and internet access .

      Suppose they marry at 30 , buy a house and put all their money into paying off a £200,000k mortgage which they manage in 25 years before starting to save for a pension at age 55 .

      Factor in repaying £30,000 of student debts , bringing up two kids , life insurance premiums , house repairs , house insurance etc .

      They buy an annuity for their retirement paying a pitiful rate of 1% above inflation so aren't going to be a Saga salesmans dream .

      I haven't done the maths but at first glance it looks like they need to inherit something from their parents .

      Throw in a trauma like a failed marriage , child with special needs , house repossession , depression or other serious illness , costs of relocating to another part of the country for work and they will have nothing to retire on .

      • Mark
        Posted May 4, 2010 at 11:11 am | Permalink

        Now imagine if they only had to pay off a £100,000 mortgage for the same house, with the difference being invested in a pension: the contributions would start at age 30 (or earlier, as they would need to save less for the deposit on the house too), not age 55, and would earn an income that rolled up. It is high house prices that are the most damaging feature at present.

        • simon
          Posted May 4, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

          It looks that way .

          The amount of interest paid on such a huge mortgage is a disaster .

          It is not as if it is all going to savers either , just being creamed of by the financial services industry like private pension plans etc .

          With weak pound I think we need measures to reserve ownership of houses for our citizens as happens in the Philipines .

          Mark , would you be in favour of restricting ownership to all but the top n% of houses in any region to private British Citizens ?

      • Mark
        Posted May 5, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        When the financial crisis hit, somewhere around half (maybe a bit more) of all mortgage borrowing was financed by borrowing abroad – so the interest was being paid abroad, to the disbenefit of the economy. When foreign lenders refused to roll over their loans (or like Lehman became bankrupt themselves), the BoE stepped in to provide the finance – they now fund over 25% of all mortgages outstanding. These BoE loans have to be re-financed by commercial borrowing as they mature, otherwise they have to be added to government debt (it's odd that they don't count already, but that's creative accounting for you). Banks need to refinance £440bn of mortgage funding over 2010-11 – over a third of the £1,238bn outstanding.

        Recent data shows that banks continue to lend large sums to house purchasers. At the height of the boom, the average mortgage for house purchase was £147,000. That declined sharply to £120,000 as house prices fell. We are now back up to £140,000. This is designed to pump up house prices (albeit on a relatively low volume of transactions). Those remortgaging are not treated so favourably, and can no longer expect to increase the size of their mortgage when doing so.

        I'm not in favour of banning foreign ownership at the moment: indeed, I'd positively encourage it, and advocate selling off "public" housing to foreign interests. If they're mug enough to buy it, it's much better that they take the hit on falling values in real terms than have British citizens suffer: foreign money would also allow borrowing to be paid off. The almost equivalent alternative is large scale default on mortgage borrowing from abroad. I am in favour of stopping measures that are designed to continue to prevent the market from working by re-inflating Brown's housing Ponzi scheme that he has had the audacity to brag about during the election campaign. We need to see housing become truly affordable – which means prices dropping relative to incomes by at least a third over the course of the next few years.

  19. Norman
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    These are all good proposals and I really do think if the Conservatives win we will have a conservative government – there's no choice really, we either start turning the supertanker around or end up on the rocks.

    Let's hope that you will get the chance to implement these and that the leadership have the backbone to see through these policies (and others of the same ilk) and not take the easy option of half hearted approaches and backing down at the first sign of resistance. Greece is finding out that simply gliding along hoping that things will turn out all right can end in an unpleasant landing. They at least have Germany to step in and help them, who will come to our aid?

    To pin our hopes on the IMF stepping in and somehow things not going completely to pot isn't much of a plan. We have to help ourselves and getting people back to work who are capable is absolutely vital.

  20. Y Rhyfelwr Dewr
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    I'll be especially glad to see the back of Home Information Packs. We sold our flat last year to a solicitor who handled all his own conveyancing. He already owned one of the other flats in the block and told me, "I don't need a Home Information Pack." Obviously, the HIP was of no benefit to me, and the estate agent didn't require one, except to supply to the buyer. So there was no need for a HIP at all.

    Nonetheless, I was required to get one. Hundreds of pounds for a pointless piece of bureaucracy that nobody was interested in, nobody paid any attention to, that was of no benefit to anybody, and that literally wasn't worth the paper it was printed on.

    • alan jutson
      Posted May 4, 2010 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      As a purchaser/buyer your Solicitor would not rely upon a HIP at all, as it is all information that is out of date, which he has not verified himself. so he duplicates it all in his own time frame, because he is the one who has to carry the can if it all goes wrong, because you are his client for whom he should be acting for in your best interests.

      As you say, a complete and utter waste of money, and a duplication of much work.

      Daughter is purchasing a house at the moment, Hip searches can be 12 months old if property has been on the market for some time.

      Estate agents think they are a waste of time, solicitors think they are a waste of time, purchasers think they are a waste of time, sellers think they are a waste of time.

      Government thinks they are a good idea.

      Vat charged on the purchase price of a HIP, enough said.

  21. JimF
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    The UKIP proposal of a Basic Citizens Benefit to replace all the other benefits for anyone over 18 earning under £11'000 I think has a great deal to commend it, not least simplicity. It also means that full-time adult students and those in training aren't discriminated against in favour of those out of work on Jobseekers, Housing Benefit, and the other host of benefits.

    Reply: it is either very costly or if adjusted down there will be lots of losers.

    • JimF
      Posted May 4, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      Take benefits away and there will be lots of losers anyway, John, but at least the system would be both simple and fair.

  22. Olaf
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    No there may not be enough jobs right now. But you have to start to change the mentality that you cannot get by without any effort and that the state will mother you until you die.

    The truly disabled aside, an existence on benefits should not be comfortable or pleasant. Yes there has to be a carrot to go with the hair-shirt.
    You cannot be punished for taking a job by losing benefits and paying tax at an effective 100% rate. Work has to be seen to pay.

    Stupid things as mentioned like loosing benefits for training also have to go.

    There should be incentives for setting us basic enterprises. If there are few jobs then one way to go is self employment.

    The client state mentality has to go. There are no 'customers' for state services. There are no 'entitlements' for those who can work only handouts. Being on 'the dole' had a stigma about it, being on entitlements doesn't.

  23. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Agreed. We must also bear down on the public sector cost of the retired elderly. The proportion of over 65s is set to rocket from this year. Baby boomers (and I'm one of them) your number is up.

    – Bear down on public sector pension entitlement
    – Raise the official retirement age by one year in each parliament
    – If you run out of money, take out a negative equity mortgage
    – Care in the home whenever that is cheapest
    – No expensive drugs to treat the retired elderly
    – No treatment other than palliative care for the physical illnesses of people suffering from any form of senility
    – Educate people about the extent of the mental and physical decline that lies ahead of them BEFORE they retire
    – Make sure that we have the right framework for 'Living wills'

    • Mark
      Posted May 5, 2010 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      I think you are assuming that the retired elderly have no useful function. That simply isn't true: they act as childminders, and often volunteer for all sorts of activities that only become viable because of that. Very few become senile and incapable for two decades before they die. In fact, typically it's only the last couple of years of life that are heavily impaired – and that was true when people were dying at 70 as much as it remains the case now they live to 85.

      One of the features that I have noticed is that for the next few years there will actually be much smaller numbers reaching 85, simply because they come from the smaller cohort born in the Depression and the War. The numbers of deaths and expensive end of life care patients will actually be lower than in recent years. It is 15-20 years hence, when the first of the baby boomers are reaching old age that these costs will really soar. I think politicians are keeping this demographic fact up their sleeves.

      Every year's increase in pension age is worth something like 9% off pension entitlement because of discounting and the extra year of investment and contribution, assuming starting from a 20 year retirement expectancy. How much raiding of pensions are you prepared to sanction? I note that you seem to believe that people have no right to have a say in how their money and taxes should be spent, denying them treatment in old age whatever they vote for or choose to spend for themselves.

  24. Alan Douglas
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    One idea I have (not thought through) would be to make a contract with benefit receivers to pay them a lump sum (ie so many weeks or months of benefit payments up front) to enable them to get OFF benefits by setting up their own income-generating scheme. I would allow the "extra" benefits like rent-payments or help with council tax to continue for that period.

    Would not suit the lead-swingers. But those who are genuinely stuck in the trap would have a boost to get going.

    I once knew someone who got off benefits, by working "illegally", to build up his stash, before announcing that he had found a job and wanted to cease claiming. My idea above would be the equivalent done legally rather than at risk of being prosecuted.

    After he wrote his letter, he had one back announcing that he was "no longer entitled to benefits", as if he had done something wrong ! (Hmmm, getting out of their clutches WAS wrong, it seems)

    Alan Douglas

  25. Posted May 7, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Welfare, overseas aid, Afghanistan, EU payments, illegal immigrants’ costs, state employee numbers and pensions, climate change costs for a start. Think Norway, Switzerland, Singapore.

  26. Posted May 16, 2010 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    My group is really pleased to have discovered this blog we have been browsing all day just for this info regarding this subject. It isn't each day you will find this quality of knowledge online I can't say thanks to you enough.

  27. Posted May 27, 2010 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    I also wish to see many more people currently on benefits helped and incentivised into work.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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