accident, avoidance, benefit, benefits, borrowing, Child Benefit, Coalition, Conservative, consultation, David Cameron, debt, deficit, Democrat, economy, Ed Miliband, emergency, George Osborne, government, haven, Health and Social Care Act, Labour, Liberal, listening exercise, Mike Sivier, mikesivier, minister, NHS, Parliament, people, politics, Prime, questions, sick, social security, tax, Tories, Tory, Vox Political, welfare
Either David Cameron is suffering a touch of sunstroke left over from his foreign holiday, or he is suddenly happy to admit he is a braying buffoon.
That is what we learned from his determination to continually harp on about Labour’s policy on child benefit during this week’s Wednesday Shouty Time (Prime Minister’s Questions).
Also that he has no answer to any questions asked of him about the Coalition’s failure to manage the NHS, or indeed, the national economy.
Ed Miliband’s first question today was about Accident & Emergency waiting times, but Cameron responded about child benefit. To the general public, that makes him a man with no answer.
Pressed on the issue, Cameron resorted to his old standby – waiting times in Welsh hospitals. The last time Mrs Mike was at a Welsh hospital, she waited maybe 15 minutes, between the time she arrived and the time of her appointment. More recently, I had to take a neighbour to hospital for some emergency medication for a mouth abscess. She was seen immediately.
And we live in Wales.
(I’m not denying that the health service could be better but improvements are constantly taking place – and what’s more, over here, they make changes in consultation with the public! I mention this to make the distinction between it and, say, coming out with hugely unpopular plans, halting the process for a so-called “listening exercise”, paying no attention to the results of that exercise and pushing through the original plans regardless. That’s the Cameron method).
We had no sense from Cameron about A&E – but was he making a good point about Child Benefit? Was Labour now supporting the Coalition’s decision to change it from a universal to a means-tested benefit, despite its bitter opposition when the cut (and don’t think it’s anything else!) was first announced.
Of course not. That would be silly.
The fact is that, if Labour comes back into office in 2015, the party’s leaders believe it will be extremely unlikely that enough money will be available to fund the restoration of universal Child Benefit.
That’s not a U-turn by Labour – it’s economic mismanagement by the Conservatives (and their little yellow enablers, the Liberal Democrats).
When George Osborne became Chancellor in 2010, he vowed to eliminate the national deficit by the next election in 2015. Some of you might have forgotten that; he said he would balance the books by then, making it possible for the (poor people of the) country to start on the national debt (because the rich people have parked £21 trillion in foreign tax havens and the Tories are determined not to do anything about it, even though collecting some tax would solve our problems in a stroke).
The 2015 election is now less than two years away. You might think the Coalition has done well, as it continues to claim the elimination of a quarter of the deficit. That was announced in 2012. In the year to 2013, it eliminated something like a quarter of one per cent of the deficit – maybe even less!
Borrowing continues to increase under this Coalition government. It has failed in its reason for existing.
That’s why Labour won’t be able to restore universal Child Benefit.
And that’s why David Cameron is a babbling buffoon.
Bill Garnett said:
why are politicians not held to account when they fail to respond to questions put to them? The process is theatrical…hollow performance put before accountability…
guy fawkes said:
Universal benefits was supposed to be for those in need not those in greed, so unless the rich fall on hard times they would not and should not be entitled to benefits, Labour are out of touch with it’s own voters in an effort to attract richer sponsors to their party.
Mike Sivier said:
No – universal benefits were always intended to be available to everyone relevant to them, no matter how rich or poor. I seem to recall the idea was, in the case of something like child benefit, that everybody’s child was going to grow up and contribute to the nation, meaning that everybody should receive something from the nation to help give that child the best start in life.
Labour isn’t out of touch with its voters; the party is simply admitting that the Coalition has cocked up the economy so badly that restoring this benefit to universal status will not be possible in the immediate future – as the Conservatives intended when they originally made the cut.
john ingamells (@geovanni218) said:
PMQ’s are a total waste of time and effort to watch, all sides evade and deceive issues and questions and failure to answer directly is more about political posturing and a lack of respect for us, the electorate. They seem to have no respect for us. On a number of issues I am waiting for clear water between a left of centre party, what used to be called Labour, and tory profiteers. I agree with Peter Hain that the philosophy of removal of universality in welfare for such a poor economic advantage, is like an open goal for the tories who never believed in the welfare state or nhs, and are happy to collude with any political party in chipping away at welfare until it is reduced to a nothingness. Nye Bevan had a word for the tories, I concur fully with that great man. Sadly, I fear he would find it increasingly difficult to recognise some of the policies of today’s labour party. I hope someone retains the principles and drive to campaign for proper socialist values and policies in the run up to the next election. For pity’s sake, it’s needed!
Mike Sivier said:
Was it not “New Labour” that deregulated the banking system and sold off Britains gold reserves,that partially caused the crisis we now face? And I am by no means a tory.
Mike Sivier said:
Half right. Margaret Thatcher deregulated banking. Labour was going to re-regulate, but was discouraged because bankers insisted they could manage their own businesses responsibly (and look how that turned out), and the Conservatives insisted that banks should have even less regulation still.
Labour did sell a lot of Britain’s gold reserves. My understanding is they wanted assets that could provide a greater return, and thought that gold, which earns no interest and acts as a standby when the value of your currency falls through the floor, had had its day. The difference between the amount for which it was sold and the amount it’s worth now would pay our debt interest payments for about three months. In other words, as things stand, keeping it would have made hardly any difference to our situation at all.
Jonathan Wilson said:
What I find amazing is just how utterly incompetent they are, of all parties, and especially how they seem to always duplicate things as they build up their own little empires.
The child benefit fiasco is a classic example of introducing conditions into the equation that allows a couple to earn nearly twice that of a single person working household yet retain their child benefit… yet there was already a system in place that could tally up a households overall earnings that would have removed that stupidity in the system… it was called working families tax credits which already collected data on a household and could have been easily modified or extended to cover the child benefit aspect.
Another classic case of no reductions in costs and further duplication of efforts is UC, and at total odds with its perceived intention of de-duplication, is that my local council, or at least the staff side, thought it would be heading for a large layoff of staff who dealt with HB and CT when the HB side was offloaded to the DWP… however the problem is that CT still has to be dealt with and requires the very same information that HB requires and prior to UC would be collected and processed at the same time at no extra cost… once UC is “live” (hahaha as if! Oh and what was that 2.1bullion is now going to be 15billion lifetime cost… woops!) any change in circs will need to be given to the council and also to the DWP who will have to process the data at the same time the council processes it, so its already cost twice the effort to the poor claimant and one assumes cost in time and manpower as both will have to check the validity of the COC’s and when there is a problem its likely that the claimant will have to ring the DWP to sort the HB problem, then ring the council to sort the same problem for CT.
In my case its my sons earnings that are the problem, as he is on zero hours and his wages cross the boundaries for non-dependant deductions on a weekly basis, at present I email the details to the council (and they have helpfully given me a cheat sheet of bands/deductions so I can work out how much he pays me to pay them for the CT and my HA for the HB) who then take a week or so to update and re-issue CT/HB amounts at which point the whole thing changes again and we start all over but now this information will have to be given to the dwp to adjust my HB claim and to the council for my CT claim… and any problems will no doubt take so much longer for the dwp to resolve via an expensive help number with a hundred “press 1” style menus will need to be navigated and then to be told “no one is available, please call back” and being unceremoniously disconnected; by which time my HA will have sent its usual rude letter telling me I’m behind in the rent and demanding I get in touch to resolve the matter when half the problem is that payment of HB is in arrears which makes the “debt” seem far higher than it is as most of it is cleared once the payment is made and no doubt the amounts of non-dep’s will not be easy to find, rather tucked away in some obscure pdf file thats out of date so I wont be able to calculate what he needs to pay me to pay forward so I don’t get into a muddle and find 6 months down the line that the amounts are wrong and I’m about to get kicked out… talk about building problems into the system.
Mike Sivier said:
From £2.1 billion to £15 BILLION? Seven times the original estimate? And this is the party that claims to be financially responsible?
Give us strength.
Jonathan Wilson said:
Arrrg, I made a slight mistake on the figure… its 12.8Billion http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240185166/Universal-Credit-will-cost-taxpayers-128bn
Still given that large government IT projects usually overrun by about 100% before being quietly forgotten about it’ll probably cost closer to 25Billion so the difference between 15 and 12.8 is negligible 😛
And Jonathan, can you begin to imagine how quickly someone else in the same or a similar situation to you might find themselves not managing to keep up/jump through those hoops – say if they had a more basic understanding of maths/the supposed ‘system’ or were otherwise unable to follow the criteria through for any reason?
guy fawkes said:
Well giving benefits to the rich is not what is needed!
guy fawkes said:
PS Beveridges benefit system ended up being means tested so how can it be considered to be universal, nor should it be?
You’re right guy that was the idea, but child benefit was kept separate and universally credited to everyone with children on the basis (originally) that it ought to get to those who needed it most (& their children, obviously) and the most likely way to ensure fullest take-up was making everyone with children entitled. (It seems a bit anomalous now, granted – but it was a huge step forward then & they believed it was better to give CB to a smallish number of better off people (relatively) than to means- test and end up with not everyone who really needed it getting it – often substantial numbers. At the time for reasons of stigma/mal-administration etc.) I think. We moved away from the first of those for a while – now regressed seriously again.
I think I’d agree in Child Beneft’s case, that the beginning of the end of the original principle is similar to what’s been happening with NHS – a step in the wrong direction against the principle of universality (which applies to hardly anything, after all). At the same time, I know where you’re coming from (I have close family members, for eg, who – I’m fairly sure but could be wrong – have put it away since day one (it will probably end up being needed for university costs maybe – or who knows what else – it could be a sort of an insurance policy) – whilst many of us look out for it every month (& it goes in with the general spend to cover essentials/day-to-day costs) topping up an already inadequate income. That’s to do with income differentials though (and, as was, the difference between earning potential; being in decently paid work, or not) …. Has universal CB also been to do with children being a ‘common concern’ as well, as suggested – since supposedly the better off who all (until just now) also got it, would see themselves as part of the wider ‘responsible for society’/not begrudge paying higher taxes etc. (but it’s no longer in conjunction with the originally intended social ideas of ‘fairness’/redistributing wealth that were supposed to go with it – if ever it was & this has lead us to counter-arguments now against universality (in some areas).
It’s been a while since I studied this – it was one of the first things taught as part of a social sciences course years ago & the most ‘interesting’ part of it (for me) but child benefit is something I’ve only personally had direct experience of more recently, so hoping this makes sense. CB has been almost a lifeline (for this household) at times.
Shaun A J Stockdale said:
he sold all the gold? Howe sold half, 650 tonnes, and Brown sold just over half of what was left, 400 tonnes, what did Howe do with what he sold? Paid unemployment as it was a price worth paying and tinkered with inflation so things did not seem as bad as they were, what did Brown do with the money he raised?, reinvested it into things that will show a return rather than costing us money to store something
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