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The real impact of the coalition benefit cuts

October 30, 2010 2 comments

Treasury cuts to benefits will hurt

Much of the analysis of the Comprehensive Spending Review has concentrated on the effects on the Ministry of Defence and the expected numbers of jobs to be lost by civil servants and local government employees.

The cuts to Social Security have however been subject to poor or no proper analysis, supposedly because it was all “too technical”. Although “experts” have argued about how progressive the measures are. The worst aspect of the coverage has been the focus on the £400 cap to Housing Benefit which, while difficult for those in Central London will only affect a tiny percentage of those claiming Housing Benefit – it is simply a knee jerk reaction to tabloid scare stories about poor people in expensive houses. It will save at most £65 million. Much less now that these Inner London Councils are being given £10 million for discretionary housing payments to keep these families in those very same homes. Who stays and who leaves Inner London will be dependant on the decision of a local council worker deciding on not just your income but whether your spending plans are “reasonable”.

As is often the case, the media is not doing its job.

Iain Duncan Smith may have won his “war” with the Chancellor to introduce the Universal Credit but the price of that introduction will be paid for by the poorest.

There may be technical measures to show that the “poorest” are not the hardest hit, but those measures neglect to point out that any hit on the poor is a hit on those who already have very little in the first place. It is entirely irrelevant to judge the overall package of measures on who introduced what bits first. Labour may have introduced the 50% top rate tax rate element, which therefore means the overall “package” is progressive, but the poorest are not “all in this together” because they were never in the bubble in the first place.

Labour does not escape the blame for this. They left the rate of jobseekers allowance at a pitiful level. It now represents 20% of the median wage. Before Labour it was nearer 40%. That figure will not improve any time soon, if ever.

Despite this, there is a general misconception that those on benefits are workshy and are lapping it up. The reality is life is shit on benefits and it will get worse.

To pay for the Universal Credit, the Chancellor aims to cut  £7 billion a year from the

Boy George - really will hurt you

Social Security budget by 2014-15.

The sick will be hit hard. It is proposed that after a year Employment Support Allowance becomes a means tested benefit. It is not clear whether they will retain the long-term additions that are awarded after the assessment period has ended or whether it will resort back to being the standard income based level of £65 per week. If it simply resorts back to the Income Based Level of ESA, those who are seriously ill and unavailable for work could find their incomes drop by one-third.

The coalition also wants to cap the maximum benefit that can be paid to a family. While the Universal income is being phased in, Local Councils will be expected to implement the cap. The cap is effectively a restriction on the numbers of children a family in receipt of benefits can have.

The proposal is that from 2013 the total benefit paid will not exceed £500 per week for families (including lone parents) and £350 per week for a single adult households. It is supposed to ensure that no family can receive more in benefit payments than the median after tax earnings for working households. It exempts claimants in receipt of Disability Living Allowance, War Widows benefits and families claiming working tax credits.

Local Councils will be expected to implement the cap when claimants apply for Housing and Council Tax Benefits.

The applicable amount (the minimum amount that the government expects someone to live on) is £350.43 for a couple with 3 children, calculated using 2010/11 figures. That means that their maximum Housing Benefit would be £149.57 per week. Have another child, the benefit you get to pay your rent falls.

The solution appears obvious – if you can not get a full-time job get a part-time job and claim tax credits. That option is however also facing the axe. As of now, Working Tax Credits are currently paid to those working 16 hours or more. From 2014/15 Working Tax Credits will only be paid to those working 24 hours a week (total savings £390 million per year). If you are in a couple those 24 hours can be split but one of the couple must work at least 16 hours and the level of child care subsidy will be reduced from its current 80% to 70% (saving £385 million per year).

So families with 3 children will need to move to an area with rents below £150 per week. The problem, there are very few areas with rents for 3 bedroom houses available at or below £150 per week – even using the new maximum levels of Housing Benefit that the Government wants to set.

As well as restricting those who claim Housing Benefit to the bottom 30% of the property market, instead of the bottom half of the market, the maximum payable will no longer be linked to the housing market. the maximum levels set will only be increased by the consumer prices index. Areas that have a bounce in the property market will simply become unavailable. The Government is also removing the only downward pressure on Housing Benefit rents. They are removing the £15 shopping incentive, which gave Housing Benefit claimants an incentive to find cheaper properties or negotiate lower rents. The removal of the LHA “shopping incentive” means that the minimum charged to a tenant on HB will be the maximum payable by Housing Benefit.

Labour also messed up the implementation of the Local Housing Allowance because they overly complicated a simple proposal, to publicise the local reference figures and let tenants keep the difference. The “Broad Market Rental Arears” were too big. Rents in the areas surrounding the shires, were forced up but those in the main town were left facing rent restrictions. This also happened in London, with lower rent areas such as Brent being paired with Hammersmith, forcing rents up in Brent but not sufficiently covering rent levels in Hammersmith. The proposed changes are not the solution. The poorest are being expected to pay for the errors of the previous administration.

The future of housing - ultra high density

When implemented, these changes to Housing Benefit are estimated to cut benefits to 936,960 of the 939,220 local housing allowance claimants. Families will be hit with the highest cuts, with an average reduction of £600 per year. To top of all of those cuts, those who are unable to find a job within a year face a further cut in their Housing Benefit of 10%. Again this will hit families the hardest.

Meanwhile for the first time since 1945, there will be no direct funding of social housing in England.

Claimants will also have to face changes to their Council Tax Benefit. The budget for Council Tax Benefits, already a poorly claimed benefit has been cut by 10% from £12billion to £10.8 billion. It will also no longer be a nationally legislated benefit, the Chancellor said “it will be localised”.

Despite a strict legislative framework and a great deal of DWP guidance on the workings of Housing and Council Tax Benefits, how these benefits are implemented locally already varies Borough to Borough, due to different interpretations of regulations and highly varied levels of understanding about the law arising from different training priorities.

Now that Council Tax Benefits are going to be localised expect some Councils to demand not just breakdowns of income before granting rebates but also some assessors making value judgements about your expenditure. This already happens with Discretionary Housing Payments, at almost every local authority, despite advice from the DWP not to do this.

At the moment those on very low incomes or on a “passported benefit” (income support, income based Employment Support Allowance /Jobseekers Allowance or the Guarantee element of Pension Credit) do not pay Council Tax. Once localised, some Councils to spread their funding could unless Parliament says otherwise expect them to make a minimum contribution. It is the 20% minimum contribution that broke the Community Charge.

After all of this ignominy, benefit claimants will also be subject to potentially unlawful credit referencing. Some of this is already being done. An FOI check with your Council will be able to confirm this. Much of it is unlawful but carried out anyway. Most of it produces false positives that wastes the time of Local Authority and DWP Investigators and causes undue stress to many claimants.

This is going to be intensified. Credit Reference Agencies wil be given a “bounty” if they identify fraudulent claims. The Information Commissioner has already voiced serious concerns as has the Child Poverty Action Group. The political parties seem to have forgotten that the Council Tax was never supposed to be a “poll tax (it was supposed to replace it) and – even more so as a result of the housing benefit changes  – benefit claimants are often going to find themselves in properties that have discrepancies with the credit reference agencies. Benefit claimants are also likely to have defaulted on bills and will not want the added pressure of debt collectors chasing them as  a result of information obtained because they simply claimed benefits that they were entitled to.

Fraud investigators are exempt from the Data Protection Act if they are conducting an investigation into a named individual about whom there is a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that an offence has been committed. Now everyone who claims a benefit will be subject to a data trawl with Credit Reference Agencies expecting a bounty “if they find anything”.

In deciding whether that error was caused by fraud or by error, the claimant will have the right to appeal the decisions of the Council to Appeal Tribunals. The fact that a ‘bounty hunter’ has made the accusation will be a factor that the Tribunal judge will have to take into account.

The appellant is likely to argue that the accusation of fraud has been brought because of the need to maximise their ‘bounty payments’ an the integrity of investigators and the investigation will be questioned.

So much for the coalition wanting to get rid of the “database state”.

The Government is also looking at “streamlining” fraud investigations. With a possibility that investigators will move to the HMRC. The problem is that Local Authority Investigators are far better than their DWP counterparts at finding and prosecuting fraud and the DWP are much better than their counterparts at HMRC. So this change does not even make sense as is the case with the benefit changes as a whole.

It is quite apparent that the Department of Work and Pensions and the Treasury gave Ministers a series of options, some left over from the Labour administration, about which benefits to cut. The Coalition in all of their newness ticked the lot, without any consideration of the wider impacts for homelessness or incentives to return to work.

The opposition to these cuts has been weak at best or appears badly informed. Too much publicity has gone to the whining wealthy as a result of the decision to restrict child benefit to basic rate taxpayers.

These cuts are a knee jerk reaction to tabloid scare stories that will have a much greater impact on society than the few £billion saved and the reality is these savings are unlikely to be achieved. Welfare needs to be reformed but this is not a reform, it is an attack on those who are not “in it together” because they were never “in it” in the first place.

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This is who the Tea Party Republicans are.

October 29, 2010 4 comments

Clint McCance is a school board member at Midland School District in Arkansas. Here are some quotes from his facebook response to “spirit day”

“Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers committed suicide. The only way im wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide.”

” I cant believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed therselves because of their sin. REALLY PEOPLE.”

“Being a fag doesn’t give you the right to ruin the rest of our lives. If you get easily offended by being called a fag then don’t tell anyone you are a fag. Keep that shit to yourself,”

“It pisses me off though that we make a special purple fag day for them. I like that fags cant procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other aids and die.”

“I would disown my kids if they were gay. They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off. Of course my kids will know better. My kids will have solid christian beliefs. See it infects everyone.”

http://www.hrcbackstory.org/2010/10/meet-the-face-of-hate-midland-school-board-member-gives-voice-to-bigotry/

The political wing of the Tea Party may not be saying anything about gays and African Americans before the elections. In fact they are even writing for the Guardian, to explain how nice and cuddly Tea Party Republicans are.

Useful idiot Kevin Dujan may claim that the only bad things Conservatives have said to him is that they will pray for him, despite Pat Brady supposedly calling him a “fucking faggot” and Dujan’s Freeper friends cheering Brady on. Their political representatives like Rand Paul may even be covering up their views before the elections, but gay people are still near the top of their list. People like John McCain and Clint McCance just find it difficult to hide their bigotry. The political wing of the Tea Party still hates gay people and anyone remotely different. We have however been demoted. They just have a new primary target of hate, the Muslims.

Republicans told these people to shut up. The problem is they can not help themselves. It is who they are.

They just can not help themselves.

 

Coincidence?

 

 

Shorter Kevin Dujan of Hillbuzz

October 29, 2010 2 comments
Kevin Dujan and Hillary Clinton, Kevin Dujan, Hillary Clinton

Kevin Dujan not nearly as shopped as the original pic

I am an attention seeking wingnut blogger just looking to be called out by Rush Limbaugh (again) so that you good Conservatives can donate money to taking down “leftists”,  stalking other bloggers and buying a new website again. Please remember donate to me and not the GOP because only I can deliver those 18 million votes. And no I’m not really a racist conspiracy theory spreading, smear merchant , really. No, really. Give me your $$$s to show just how much you lurve America.

Well he has certainly found a new way to earn money in this economy. Enjoy giving him your $$$s suckers.

More Tea Party Terrorists. North Carolina Candidate allegedly murdered 2 Iraqis in cold blood.

October 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Yet another disgraceful example of terrorism from North Carolina.

Ilario Pantano, who is running for North Carolina’s 7th congressional district as a Republican Party Candidate, the Politcal Wing of the Tea Party Terrorists, was charged with the premeditated murder of two Iraqi civilians in 2005 while serving as a second lieutenant with the US Marines.

In April of 2004, Pantano and his platoon stopped and detained two Iraqi men in a car near Falluja. He and two others ordered the detained Iraqis to search their own car for weapons and then allegedly unloaded two full magazines of his M16A4 rifle into them.

The Politial Representative of the Tea Party told the New York magazine “I believed that by firing the number of rounds that I did, I was sending a message”

The New York Magazine reported

Pantano, who earlier had the Iraqis put in plastic handcuffs, now had Doc Gobles cut the cuffs off, which he did with his trauma shears. Then Gobles marched the two prisoners to their vehicle, placed one in the open door of the front seat, the other in the open door of the rear seat. Pantano motioned to the prisoners to search the car. He ordered Gobles to post security at the front of the car; Sergeant Coburn at the rear. Both men turned their backs on Pantano and the Iraqis.

A short time later, the shots started. Gobles and Coburn spun around. Pantano, ten feet from the Iraqis, emptied his M-16’s magazine, reloaded, emptied another. Later, Coburn recalled wondering “when the lieutenant was going to stop, because it was obvious that they were dead.” Photos, souvenirs taken by a Marine, would show one Iraqi nearly embracing the backseat of the car. The other lolled on his side, his head on the floorboard.

Happy Birthday Hillary Clinton

October 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Thank you for restoring some decency back to the role of Secretary of State.

Categories: Fun Stuff

So sad. The Emperor of Exmoor shot dead.

October 26, 2010 1 comment

The Emperor of Exmoor was the largest wild animal in the UK.

He was a magnificent animal, few had seen him but there were many tales of his existence.

He weighed in at more than 300 lbs and stood at nine feet from hoof to antler-tip. He was very likely to be the largest wild animal in the United Kingdom.

He was shot dead, by a rich hunter, during the mating season. He was shot for sport. Some testosterone lacking hunter wanted the head of this great animal as a trophy. Not food. Not for culling. For sport. A trophy.

Legal yes. Morally right, no.

Categories: Environment, Sports

Tea Party Terrorists Strike Again. Rand Paul supporters stamp on the head of a woman.

October 26, 2010 Leave a comment

The terror wing of the United States Republican Party revealed who they really were last night.

As Rand Paul arrived at the Kentucky debate, the terror wing of the Republican Party attacked a woman from Moveon.org. They grabbed at her hair, which thankfully was a wig, pulled her to the ground and held her down so that another Paul supporter could stamp on her head and shoulder.

Lauren Valle of MoveOn.org had initially attempted to give Rand Paul an “employee of the month award” from Republicorp, a fake company highighting the merger of the interests of big corporations and the political wing of the Tea Party, the Republicans.

It is understood that when questioned about the incident, Rand Paul, candidate for the political wing of the Tea Party could only mumble “tax cuts, librul media, Obamacare”.