When George Osborne became Shadow Chancellor he made Welfare Reform one of his primary issues to focus on when in Government. Along with Iain Duncan-Smith, they worked on what would become Universal Credit which has had a difficult birth as a Government policy.
The past week, more so than ever, with Osborne pointing towards the horrendous Mick Philpott as an example of the ‘monsters’ that are created in the welfare system. This, coupled with embarrassing photos of Osborne’s chauffeur driven ministerial car spotted in a disability spot at a McDonald’s, has brought welfare reform into negative discussions.
The Welfare bill is a huge one for the UK Government and there does need to be a reform of the system. However, this will have to include pensions which account for half of the total Welfare bill.The so called ‘bedroom tax’ has also raised heads as we do not have the housing stock to manage the change in people’s living arrangements. In addition to this, it would be very difficult to enforce.
Another blow to the Universal Credit will be the fact that it will cost more to implement than it will actually save in the long term according to experts. Welfare has gotten out of control but it was through the expanse of give aways by the consecutive governments who created huge bills for the Treasury including giving fuel allowances to pensioners and child tax credit to name but a few.
As Milton Friedman put it:
“Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.”
Today’s welfare state is sadly a corrupted version of the one Beveridge envisioned in 1945. We also face different challenges today compared to the UK in 1945. Osborne and the Conservatives do have to be congratulated for trying to start the debate on the Welfare State. However this debate cannot solely focus on benefits but on the whole state provision from education to health and of course pensions. Yet, the fact that the front bench of the government is wholly privately educated Oxbridge graduates does not help or the Chancellor trying to paint a picture of the welfare system creating monsters. After all we are all in this together!