Friday, October 22, 2010

Comprehensive spending review

I write this post on the 20th October, the day when the details of the comprehensive spending review came out.  This is the government's plan to get us out the recession.

I understand there's no money.  I understand that Labour's method of getting us out of the recession was to borrow more and spend more.  I understand that we are in near unprecedented levels of debt.  I understand that the Conservative's methods of fixing this problem is to cut back on all spending.

I know we've got a problem.

But, as per the key points of the review listed here, I cannot help but feel that the optimal way out is not to cut 7 billion from the welfare budget (most folk on welfare are pretty damn skint to start with, why punish them?  Is it cos they don't vote for you?)
It's not to cut 490,000 public sector jobs (although I'm amazed the figure isn't higher)
It shouldn't involve a 19% four year cut in departmental budgets (money was tight beforehand).

In more detail, with my comments in bold (text taken from the above link):

Communities and local government, Annual budget: £33.6bn
What's being cut: Councils will see a 7.1% annual fall in their budgets. But ring-fencing of local authority revenue grants will end and councils will have freedom to borrow against their assets (I thought borrowing got us into a lot of these problems?  Well, that and investing in Iceland). Funding for social housing to be cut by more than 60%, with new tenants having to pay higher rents (That will really help lift people out of poverty [edit - that was a saracastic comment, I don't think it's a good idea, I think it's terrible!!)). But the government hopes these changes will free up funds to build 150,000 new affordable homes over the next four years.(To bring in more income for central or local government?  what rate will the rents be fixed at?)

Home Office, Annual budget: £10.2bn
What's being cut: Budget cut of 6% a year, equivalent to 24% fall over the period.
Police budget cut by 4% a year, focused on bureaucracy rather than manpower (but with all the paperwork coppers have to do how will reducing bureaucracy make the police more efficient?  will they reduce the forms and reports?). Aim to maintain "visibility and availability" of officers on beat. But some experts believe 18,000 police jobs could be lost. UK Border Agency budget to fall 20%. Counter-intelligence budget to fall 10%.

Justice, Annual budget: £9.7bn
What's being cut: Budget to fall by 6% a year, equivalent to 23% over the period.
Plan for new 1,500-place prison to be dropped. 3,000 fewer prison places expected by 2015. (But our prisons are already overflowing.  I assume more folk will be put on electronic tag then).  £1.3bn capital investment in prison estate.

Work and Pensions
Winter fuel allowance, free bus passes and TV licences for 75-year-olds protected. (Thank fuck for that!) Cuts to child benefit for higher rate taxpayers to generate £2.5bn. (Cuts based on your rate of tax? I'm amazed.  I'd like to see the thresholds though) £2bn investment in new universal credit.(Oh gods, I have a terrible feeling about this) Weekly child element on child tax credit to rise by £30 in 2012 and £50 by 2012. (I'm not quite sure what the difference between a child tax credit and a child benefit is).

What's being cut?: A further £7bn in welfare savings planned on top of £11bn already announced. A new 12-month time limit for the one million people on employment and support allowance to find work or face benefit cut. (I wonder if benefit cut means no more benefits or reduced benefits.  What happens when there's just no work?)  10% cut in council tax benefit budget. New threshold on housing benefit. Maximum savings award in pension credit to be frozen for four years. Increased working hours threshold for working tax credits for couples with children(Now this is a good idea No it's not!  I completley misunderstood what this meant  - read the comments for more info). New total benefits cap per family. (I have mixed feelings about this.  It depends what the level of capping is).

The Guardian reports that the spending review includes " the withdrawal of £50 a week from the million people claiming incapacity benefit for more than a year".  People on Incapacity Benefit are too ill to work.  That's why they get it.  Do they then switch to this new universal benefit?  Are they not entitled to claim anything after a year?  What will they live on?  Housing Benefit is getting cut.  The councils (who provide all those important support services) are getting their budgets and staff numbers slashed.

The support for social housing will be halved.  £350 million will be taken from the legal aid budget.

Discussing the impact on women, the F Word posts a statement from Ceri Goddard of the Fawcett Society, who labels the new budget a disastrous blow for women's equality.

About the Lib Dems:
"Nick Clegg. the deputy prime minister, held a teleconference with hundreds of Lib Dem parliamentary candidates and faced tough questions on why he had reneged on the Lib Dem pledge not to raise university tuition fees. He told the callers that he felt wretched about signing the pledge and then reneging on it."
When you're in a coalition government you can't go through with everything you promised.  That's the crapper.

I ask, why aren't the rich getting taxed more?  Why are the poor getting the shit end of the deal?
Oh right, cos the poor don't count and their votes don't matter.

Now y'all go read Feminist Avatar's comment and reflect on why she's awesome.


Feminist Avatar said...

To answer some of your questions: new social housing will presumably be fixed at rent rates nearer to the private sector. The idea behind raising council tax rents is to make the private rental sector seem as desirable as council housing to council tenants, so encouraging them to move out of council housing (and meaning we don't have to supply more housing). This forgets that the purpose behind social housing was that people on low incomes could not afford private sector rents, which was why we had people living in multi-family households and slums.

The current suggested threshold for child benefit is if one person in a household earns more than £44,000 (which oddly means two people can earn 43,000 each and still get it).

The increased working hours threshold for working tax credit is a bad thing for low earners. You are currently only entitled to working tax credit if you work more than 16 hours a week; now you will have to work more than 24 hours a week to get it. This will slam a lot of working mothers who work around their children's school hours and can't increase their work hours but will see their benefits cut.

Saranga said...

Thanks for clarifying FA! seems I complteley misunderstood some things, gonna go re-edit the post.