Thursday, September 10, 2009

Local cuts for local people

Laurie Penny thinks that a Tory welfare proposal could be a good idea – at least in principle:

The plan in question involves decentralising the benefits system - giving individual councils a lump sum of money to spend on welfare howsoever they choose. Provided that safeguards were put in place ensuring a minimum amount of benefits and housing support were offered to the needy, this would actually be an improvement on the current system, which involves a great deal of overheads for very little positive return. …
I understand, of course, that the Tories are about as likely to really have the best interests of the poor and unlucky at heart as I am to be a contestant on the next series of Strictly Come Dancing.

Well, quite. If you listen to enough of David Cameron’s speeches, then apart from developing narcolepsy and/or murderous impulses, you’ll discern certain recurring key themes. One such is the need to cut public spending. Another is the need to decentralise the state and provide more public services locally. A third is the conviction that welfare is likelier to cause than alleviate poverty. And a fourth is the need for him to be popular and win elections.

Do you see where I’m going?

Depending on the size of the block grants that the councils get, this policy could easily be used to cut benefits while allowing the government to claim that it’s not their fault.

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