At the Conservative party conference we saw two major announcements on benefit reforms to help cut the welfare bill in preparation for the new benefit reforms which will bring in a new universal credit but which will probably prove more expensive.
On the one hand we had a cap on benefits at £26,000 (except for disability grants) and the other issue is that we have a stop on child benefits for people paying the higher rate of tax. The first restriction could have an effect on benefit claimants in many expensive areas, such as central London. The second affects the rich. Yes you are rich if you earn over £44,000. There is no shame in saying it. The average household income in the UK is £22,800 (£19127 in the North east) and only 15% earn above the 40% rate.
Opinion polls show both policies are about as popular as benefits cuts can be, with the Sun poll showing approval ratings of 86% and 86% respectively. So which cut are Labour and Conservative politicans and press going apocolyptic about? The cut for rich people. The idea that higher tax payers should recieve benefits (unless they are on benefits) strikes me as absurd. Both Guardianistas and Torygraph readers are going beserk about it. This country is about protecting the priviledge of the better off. It is clear from the reaction to this that both the Left and the Right share this preoccupation. They want a welfare state that covers everyone, rather than one that gives targetted benefits to the poor and needy. Benefits should be a safety net not a free for all.