The welfare crisis deepens. The DUP are making common cause with Sinn Fein over George Osborne’s cuts

The Guardian’s Politics Live feature reports an analysis of the impact of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill on the working poor.  Read across locally, it has the effect of adding the DUP’s opposition to the UK’s government’s budget strategy  to Sinn Fein’s, albeit on more limited grounds. The analysis was made by the highly reputable, unbiased House of Commons library and commissioned by Frank Field, the veteran free thinking Labour MP who is a leading authority on welfare and social policy. The analysis won’t make agreement on the Stormont House agenda any easier. The DUP voted against the Bill last night  Their position is much more nuanced than Sinn Fein’s,  as they accept the need to reduce the costs of welfare which as the Belfast Telegraph reports, have been ballooning, rather than deflating:

Almost £5.6bn was poured into welfare in the last 12 months – up 15% on five years ago.

At the current rate of spending our welfare bill will hit £6.4bn by the end of the decade.

Our current £5.6bn bill includes:

£971m spent on Disability Living Allowance, which has surged by more than 22% in five years;

£179m on Jobseeker’s Allowance – broadly unchanged from 2010 despite the number of people in work rising significantly;

£655m on housing benefit – a rise of 17% in the last five years;

And £734m on employment and support allowance, which has jumped by 39% in the last year.

In total, £5.583bn was spent on welfare in Northern Ireland during 2014/15, including £2bn on the retirement pension.

That total has risen by 15% since 2010/11, when expenditure added up to £4.851bn.

The figures were obtained by Ulster Unionist MLA Samuel Gardiner. He warned that the current rate of spending was not sustainable.

In the Commons last night Sammy Wilson, who never knowingly understates declared :

We support many of the measures in the Bill, which will be important in the debates we will have on it, but my role today is to highlight the things that cause us concern.

 “I believe that this Bill will be the final nail in the coffin of the Assembly. Although Sinn Fein are not here tonight to raise the impact of these measures on people in NI, no doubt they will jump up and down in the streets of Belfast claiming that they are concerned about the impact on the vulnerable. It will join the other welfare measures blocked in the Assembly and the hole in the NI budget will grow even greater. The Assembly cannot survive another costly welfare reform crisis.

What the DUP among others fear is a two tier benefits cap which is the beginning of wider regionalisation that would permanently disadvantage Northern Ireland, where not all social costs are lower than the UK average.

The measure before us is the first step towards regionalisation, and we ought to be aware that in this Bill is contained the embryo of further cuts to the poorest regions of the United Kingdom, because that is where we are likely to find the pressure to try to reduce the welfare bill further.

On tax credits, I support the Government’s desire and objective to get people into work—to make work pay, to give people an incentive. That is why the proposals on apprenticeships, full employment reporting and so on are all good. But the change in universal credit, the freezing of benefits and the change in tax credits are, as the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field) pointed out, an attack on aspiration. It is an attack on people who are in work.

The analysis commissioned by Frank Field shows that:

  • 3.2 million strivers will lose an average of £1,350 next year.
  • 754,900 families earning between £10,000 and £20,000 a year will lose up to £2,184 next year. Families earning £10,226 will be exactly £1,500 worse off.
  • 51,600 families earning between £20,000 and £30,000 will be made worse off by up to £2,884 next year.
  • 580,100 of Britain’s poorest working families earning less than £6,420 a year face the prospect of being ‘taxed’ for the first time. Those earning between £3,850 and £6,420 will lose 48p in tax credits for each pound they earn. This is a higher withdrawal of income than that imposed on the country’s highest earners. Families earning £6,410 a year will be £1,200 worse off as a result.

Field said Labour should be standing up for these “strivers”.

Before, during, and after the general election campaign the Tories rightly gained plaudits for their commitment to protect and advance the interests of Britain’s strivers. Yet in his first post-election budget the chancellor has decided to knock this group for six. He has torn up the contract they signed when they took it upon themselves to find a job. So here is Labour’s opportunity to put itself once again on the side of Britain’s army of strivers. First we must fight this double whammy of unfair cuts being forced upon them and, second, we need to push for improvements to the chancellor’s living wage proposal so that low paid workers genuinely are better off.

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  • chrisjones2

    “Although Sinn Fein are not here tonight to raise the impact of these measures on people in NI, no doubt they will jump up and down in the streets of Belfast claiming that they are concerned about the impact on the vulnerable” Sinn Fein Councilors whose whole pay and allowances is being gifted to the party so they are forced to rely on benefits to survive and forget to tell the DSS that in reality they are not available for work

    ” the embryo of further cuts to the poorest regions of the United Kingdom,” … but that all depends on the cost of living in those regions. Why should a poor person in London be expected to live on the same level of benefits as in Belfast when their cost of living is so radically higher?

  • Surveyor

    Following your logic Chris why don’t poor people in London not move to Belfast?

  • 23×7

    That’s what the Tories want. Social cleansing from the south east. Gotta keep those property prices climbing.

  • james

    That isn’t following his logic at all. If the cost of living is radically higher, how do you think Chris is advocating that poor people move to where the basics cost more?

  • Reader

    The Tories may indeed like a bit of social cleansing from the SE. But that would reduce upward pressure on property prices there if it actually happened. And even the nasty party is still willing to contribute an extra £3000 pa. on the benefits limit to Londoners.
    So it’s OK to be cynical, but you probably need to make a choice…

  • kalista63

    I’ll give £2.52 (it’s all I have) to anyone who can explain what Andy Burhanam’s position is on the bill. He’s given me a right headache trying to work him out.

    This is causing some serious fun within Labour. We’re gonna need popcorn, lots of popcorn.

  • chrisjones2

    Thats part of the intention. Many of them have emigrated from London to Skidrow on Sea aka Brighton, as just one example

  • chrisjones2

    “Gotta keep those property prices climbing.”

    or make better use of resources by moving the unproductive our to make room for those whop contribute more?

    I am not advocating it but saying its a consequence! And whats the difference between that and sink housing estates in many towns? Only the scale changes

  • Granni Trixie

    I know what you mean but in fairness to Brighton have to add that the example you have chosen is not a good one. Yes, Brighton does tend to draw in people who want more for their buck than they would get in London in terms of property or schools but in no way is it skid row-ish Infact the quality of life there imo is superior to the less manageable capital.

  • chrisjones2

    Read private eye …..that’s how it refers to it.

    Of course we are both right – I like Brighton. It has style and character in parts

    But it does also attracts lots of DSS claimants seeking casual work (often in the black economy) and who live in the seedier B&Bs

    Having a Green Council Doesn’t help the image!!!

  • murdockp

    you have actually identified an issue which will come to pass in due course.

  • Surveyor

    London has a lower cost of living than Belfast?

  • Surveyor

    The thing is the super rich need people to clean up their mess and do the so called menial jobs. If these people are being priced out of London would they then be willing to make say a 150 mile round trip every day to do them for a low wage?

  • Dan

    A cowardly stance by DUP.

  • Reader

    I have never really swallowed this as a real argument from the left; why do you care if super rich people are a bit inconvenienced? I don’t.
    In any case, if it ever becomes an actual issue, the super rich will look after themselves; using new methods like automation, old methods like live-in servants, or novel cynical methods like shared barrack blocks.

  • Reader

    Not really. As an authentically populist and parasitic party, the DUP will ask for more money at Westminster, then try to make the best of whatever money actually arrives at Stormont.

  • AndyB

    I disagree. The DUP and Alliance parties have both shown that the place to oppose welfare changes is the House of Commons.

    By the time welfare changes are passed by Westminster, their progress to implementation in Northern Ireland is inevitable, because, as is currently happening, funding for benefits in Northern Ireland is based on what is provided for residents of England, Scotland and Wales (the so-called “fines.”)

    If the Assembly wants to make alternative provision, even if it is only to maintain the status quo, it has to make up the gap from its own resources, either by raising the regional rate, or diverting resources from other budgets.

    For that reason, by the time it’s got through Parliament, it’s down to making the best of a bad job – the only alternative is a UK-wide campaign to have the legislation repealed.

  • murdockp

    vulnerable, the most over used word in Northern Ireland. what does it even mean?

    for me it means money allocated to the core supporters of DUP / SF.

    there is no incentive to get them of benefits as the hard core support in the absence of any policy other than banning plastic bags and putting prostitutes on to benefits means the votes are too valuable

  • kalista63

    Speaking of Private Eye, how superbly this sums up the Tory con in May

    Then there’s his promise not to cut child tax credit

  • Robin Keogh

    Ha, could you imagine inward migration from the UK to de nort ? LOL

  • Robin Keogh

    Lads if u have a spare hour or so and want to watch something both entertaining and educational, I suggest this …..enjoy

  • 23×7

    Nah, that’s where the inheritance taxcut comes in. Kids of the wealthy can buy more property. Pluss you’ve got the rich foreigners buying property. London has become almost another state. Joke really.

  • Virginia

    Use the public library internet, enroll in a maths then java or python programming course via Coursera (free) to improve your chances, due to the fact that this change will happen. Or choose to complain and link to YouTube videos, as the change happens and you plan your move to England or EU.

  • AndyB – Indeed.

    And note the very recent news, regarding Osborne seeking up to 40% cuts from unprotected Whitehall departments. In tandem with this, he is positively encouraging Whitehall to devolve more and more spending decisions to local level.

    A conservative government encouraging devolution of powers? Seems counterintuitive on the face of it. But when you consider that all he’s seeking to do is devolve responsibility for the cuts to local level (i.e. away from him) then it’s clearly clever politics.

  • Reader

    So 60 year olds will be able to get on the property ladder when their 85 year old parents die.
    Don’t get me wrong. I think that inheritance tax changes are a sop to the wealthy; that the Cameron (and Brown, and Blair) governments like rising property prices because it’s taxable and looks like growth; and that the government wouldn’t mind a bit if the poor moved out of London.
    But it’s not a huge cunning conspiracy. It’s just a load of small chunks of cynical opportunism. If there was a huge cunning conspiracy I might have a bit more hope for the longer term situation.

  • james

    Eh? Wouldn’t have thought so, even if the Shinners had commissioned the research 🙂

  • james

    Happened before 😉

  • james

    Vulnerable I begin to think means those not affiliated to a major political party, and thus not protected. Shouldn’t be, but I do fear it might be so.

  • Robin Keogh

    Ha, very good 😉
    But you are confusing migration with invasion.

  • james

    Not at all. Simply population shifts within the Empire. And, of course, in modern times we’ve seen a lot of inward immigration of Irish into this part of the UK from Ireland. Which has been a mixed bag.

  • Robin Keogh

    Population shifts….never heard ethnic cleansing described that way before 😉

  • james

    Wasn’t ethnic cleansing at all, Robin. The province of Ulster was fairly sparsely populated following the flight of the earls.

  • jackie veighey

    End of the assembly don’t think so to many nests being feathered on all sides

  • Robin Keogh

    So the law on the statute books at the time instructing all Catholics to pack their belongings and vacate ‘planter’ land was a prank sort of thing then?

  • Robin Keogh

    Brighton is a very stylish place Chris, its also a Gay nirvana. I am heading there for Brightom pride in two weeks. Buckets of Champagne and the best of food

  • james

    Wheels still haven’t come off the Republican myth machine then.

  • 23×7

    It’s not a conspiracy, protecting their class and the wealthy is the entire raison d’être of the Tory party.

    You might want to think a little deeper than your first line. It is also possible for the 60 year old to distribute their inheritance windfall to little Hugo, Sebastian and Jemima.

  • Zeno

    I read today that Sinn Fein are going to employ an actual Economist. It appears they didn’t have one before, which explains a lot.
    They have a shock coming………. lol.

  • Robin Keogh

    Ignorance is no excuse James and denials are just a display of weakness. Try to educate yourself about history….

  • james

    more directly after O’Neill and O’Donnell fled Ireland in the ‘Flight of the Earls’ in 1607, there had been wholesale confiscation of Irish-owned land in Ulster and from 1609 the introduction of Protestant settlers from England and Scotland.

    Confiscated from whom? The aristocrats who upped and fled never to return, presumably. To whom do you feel it should be ‘given back’? To their descendants in Spain? Ridiculous, in many ways.

  • Reader

    23×7: …to distribute their inheritance windfall to little Hugo, Sebastian and Jemima…
    I.e. – the 35 year olds. These days, when people die, they may well leave 2 children, 4 grandchildren and 8 GGchildren. The inheritance tax changes in the pipeline won’t go far spread between that lot.
    And the presumed point in all this is to give the Tory class a chance to buy into a clearly unsustainable house price boom? (another one!). Better all round, for a far-sighted government of any complexion, to build more houses. But we never get a far-sighted government.

  • james
  • Robin Keogh

    Lol james you just linked me to an article that says the same thing but in a prettier way.

  • Robin Keogh
  • james

    ” In granting Hamilton the territory of Upper Clandeboy and Great Ardes, James emphasised the intention “…of inhabiting the same, being now depopulated and wasted, with English and Scottish men; and the carrying of men, cattle, corn and all other commodities from England and Scotland into the said territories.”

    Jaypers. Not often you and I agree on the fundamental facts of things, Robin.

  • james

    I find the needle always comes back to the start of the same song. Do we give America back to the native Americans, Canada back to the First Nations, Australia back to the Aboriginal peoples, and Ulster back to to the original inhabitants – if they can still be found, that is.. Or do we recognise the implausability of all of that and accept that time has moved on and those who still wish to play at being woodkerns should really catch themselves on.

  • Robin Keogh

    Thats not the discussion here. We are where we are and we all have a right to be here no matter what the events of history are. We all need to accept historical events too and i think its sad when people try to deny history as if it somehow shores up their position. Holocust deniers, srebinica deniers etc. Etc. Its not about revenge or retribution, its simply accepting what happenned as is rather than destorting it to fit a contemporary mindset.

  • james

    My point exactly.

  • Robin Keogh

    At last !

  • barnshee

    People have been ” moving to London|” for generations family has done it for three generations -and come back -and gone again
    Perhaps if more did it…..

  • james

    “we all have a right to be here no matter what the events of history are”

    Good, if slightly incongruous, to hear that from a Republican, so thanks for that. Great stuff. It thus follows that we have the right to self-determination, one man one vote and so forth.

  • Mike the First

    That would be something of a logical impossibility…