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Coffee House

Osborne mulling child benefit u-turn

30 September 2011

4:47 PM

30 September 2011

4:47 PM

Eric Pickles makes no bones that his bin policy is aimed at Middle Britain, and the Tories may soon announce more measures to butter up that vital electoral
constituency. The Times reports (£) that Cameron and Osborne are seriously considering a u-turn on their
controversial cut to child benefits over families in which parent earns more than £42,475, which is due to be introduced in January 2013.

George Osborne apparently never does anything unless it yields a political dividend and this is an intriguing development, if it materialises. It reiterates that the Tories know they have a woman
problem; identified by Melanie McDonagh in a magazine cover piece earlier this summer. It also implies that the
government accepts the economy is likely to remain stagnant for the foreseeable future. Part of the logic of introducing the change in 2013 was presumably that the economy would have recovered by
then, so affluent people whose wages were probably increasing might not notice the cut. It was a good way of cutting without hurting. The u-turn suggests that the government appears to want people
to have spending money in their pockets. Allegra Stratton reports that further
announcements on benefits are expected at this week’s conference; it will be interesting to see what they entail.

Finally, the Times’ story keys into the indications that the government recognises the cost of living as a pressing political concern – and one on that Ed Miliband has exploited with some
success. It opens the possibility of further minor initiatives to limit increases in fuel duty, council tax and so forth.

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