*This post is focused solely on David Cameron’s “plans post-2015” on housing benefit, not all his welfare reform speech*
There can be no doubt that David Cameron’s speech today on welfare reform shows how worried he is about his political life-span. It was a cry for help from the Tory right; a pledge to attack the “entitlement culture” in Britain; and the first sign of desperation from the normally perfectly assured Conservative leader.
Cameron is lost. Politically he doesn’t know where he stands, so he has done what any Conservative leader would do and has attacked welfare recipients, but crucially, YOUNG welfare recipients. He is seeking to perpetuate the myth that under-25s are lazy and feckless. We are far from it. Why is he doing this? To win back the traditional Tory vote. His plan to slash housing benefits for under-25s (and save £1.8bn) is a perfect example of “conservatism”, it is a vote winner. Here’s the real killer, the vote he’s winning here is the over-60s vote, the key voting age (in terms of actual numbers). There is no doubt about it, cutting housing benefits for under-25s is the beginning of a vote winning series of policies from the Conservatives. Come 2015, they could be election winning policies.
The problem is, they are terrible policies. Ill-thought out, ill-timed and irresponsible. Anybody up for another round of omnishambles?
One million young people are unemployed, how is taking away £90 per week (on average) in housing benefit going to help young people? Removing housing benefit from anybody retrospectively is cruel. It is not the claimants fault that the Government’s expenditure has gotten out of hand, it is the Governments. On the one hand, the Government has said in the past ‘You clearly need financial help with housing, and we will provide £x to cover this based on your needs.’ They then turn around and say ‘People think you receive too much, we need their votes, so, sorry, but we’re taking it away, you probably still need £x, but oh well. Votes are more important than your housing benefit.’
The last Government and some of our pensioners are responsible for excessive spending and a housing bubble, which forced the average price of a home in the UK to over £225,000. Does David Cameron really think that the majority of under-25s can afford a 40% deposit? His idea is crazy.
The Government should be relaxing planning laws, and encouraging private enterprise to increase the housing stock in the UK. We need more affordable homes, with low interest rates businesses should be confident to invest, but our red-tape stands in their way.
Of course, there are disincentives within our welfare system that need to be tackled, but Cameron and the Tory-right are hoping that if they shout loudly enough and for long enough, people will believe them that benefit claimants are the scourge of this country. People are on benefits because they require financial help, not simply to “sponge” off the Government. How about for once, we actually clamp down on tax evasion, instead of always focusing on demonising benefit claimants.
We spend £5bn on the universal benefit of a free bus pass for pensioners. Why not make that means tested and save the £2bn there, instead of attacking the next generation? Oh, because pensioners vote. How very cynical of you…