Coffee House

George Osborne’s Budget elephant trap is still open and waiting for Labour

20 March 2014

9:32 AM

20 March 2014

9:32 AM

Yesterday the Opposition didn’t really do all that much opposing. Labour announced it was going to vote in favour of George Osborne’s AME welfare cap, with Ed Balls arguing that Ed Miliband had set this out in a speech last year anyway. This cap was supposed to be an elephant trap for Labour, but Labour initially appeared to have tip-toed around the edge without falling in. But Osborne has set a secondary snare for the party: the ‘bedroom tax’.

The Conservatives are keen to point out that restoring the ‘spare room subsidy’ would lead to a £465 million welfare spending rise in 2015/16, and want Labour to answer how they could avoid breaching the welfare cap. Ed Balls argued on Today that restoring the subsidy could actually save money because it is such a clumsy policy that it ends up costing more either through higher housing benefit payments to tenants forced to move to the private rented sector or through the costs of homelessness.

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Even privately Tory ministers accept that it’s not the worst policy for Labour to repeal: some call it ‘Lord Freud’s idea’ while another recently accepted to me that ‘it’s only popular if you ask the right question about it’ (which could be said for a number of unpopular measures).

But the question is valid: how would Labour cut welfare spending to stay under the cap? And thus the welfare cap trap stays open and the party needs to work out how not to fall into it.


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  • PHILIPL

    I have been an avid reader of Coffee House for the past 18 months, but this is my first post. I hope it will be the first of many. I would just like to say that as long as there are people around like Colonel Mustard, there is still hope for this country.

    • Theoderic Braun

      Even if he bludgeoned Miss Scarlet to death in the library with the lead pipe?

      • Colonel Mustard

        You should worry more about Master Braun in the Coffee House with the vitriolic keyboard. Look behind you!

        • Theoderic Braun

          This blog is a riot. It really is seriously funny.

          • Colonel Mustard

            Unlike you.

            • Theoderic Braun

              As a member of the audience I’m not supposed to be comedic. The object of the enterprise is for me to be well entertained by your antics rather than the converse. And I admit that entertained handsomely I have been. Thank you. All of you. For being you.

              • Colonel Mustard

                A member of the audience? I think not. Cast your red-tinted eyes up and down this thread and you will see rather a lot of your unwanted ‘participation’ in the form of tagging the comments of perfectly sane people with deranged leftist drivel like suggesting the state should decide what size of house, bought and paid for with one’s own earned money, one should occupy.

                And like suggesting that our diverse, multi-religious society should live by “Christian” principles by which you no doubt mean the leftist-suborned Labour Church of “England”. Try telling that to our Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Taoist brothers and sisters you bigot.

                But of course all of that tosh can be summed up more succinctly as “we tell you what you can and can’t do because we know what is best for you” – the sorry song of the left from Lenin to Chavez.

                Every blog in England has one or two or more leftist chumps, blithely disregarding the proven failure of their regimes and the human misery they have caused, arrogantly lecturing others as to how they should think and live. There is a place for such as you, where you will feel right at home. It’s called North Korea. Off you toddle.

                • Theoderic Braun

                  This blog really is better than a penny tour of Bedlam as far as entertainment goes and more economical since one penny cheaper. As a Christian I can only speak about the world that Christianity espouses as its ideal. Unlike you I do not take it on myself to speak for others; although far from being a perfect man I am thankfully not quite so vain, vainglorious or silly. And of course, being a committed Christian, I automatically forgive you for your stupidity, aggressiveness and ignorance.

                  Hand on heart you have amused me.

                  Bless.

                • Tom M

                  “……as a committed Christian…..automatically forgive you…..” That sounds somewhat vain to me.
                  Committed Christians always seemed vain or smug or pompous or something decidedly odd to me. That said as a sometime church organist (from a non religious background and talked into doing it for years by a friend).

                • Theoderic Braun

                  Isabel Hardman is also a committed Christian I believe. Should you really be insulting the author of this blog?

                • Tom M

                  “…This is an open blog where members of the public are permitted to air
                  their opinions which, when they are contrary or inimical to yours, you
                  figuratively try to shout down or bully people enough to discourage them
                  from posting…..”

                  Quote: Theodoric Braun 13 hours ago.

                • Theoderic Braun

                  Well this is plainly silly. When did a difference of opinion become tantamount to shouting anybody down or bullying? As far as I am aware I haven’t insulted anybody, or ascribed political affiliations to any person falsely, or attacked anybody, or advised anybody to quit this blog, or told anybody to stop posting their opinions.

                  What a curious group of non-entities you commentors are to be sure.

                  (And before you start shouting “insult” since I am commenting on this site right now, by definition I am also included in the “you” appearing in the sentence above.)

                • Fergus Pickering

                  My dear chap do not suppose you are a Christian. A Pharisee perhaps.

                • Theoderic Braun

                  A Christian Pharisee? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

                • Colonel Mustard

                  Yes, it’s always seems to be the resort of the most sociopathic of the socialist collective to suggest those who dissent from their orthodoxy are “troubled souls”. A weirdly disturbing gambit of feigning sympathy and being arrogantly patronising at the same time.

                  The Soviet Union used to lock dissenters up accusing them of mental instability. We haven’t quite got there yet but the Left are pushing hard to delegitimise and demonise any viewpoints that do not conform to their programme of coercion and intimidation.

                  Most of the rest of your comment is the usual ad hominem twaddle and as a supposed Christian you should probably look up the word ‘hypocrite’ sooner rather than later. You should try to get ‘caring’ and ‘reasonable’ into your patronising sermons too, to really baste your propaganda with sanctimonious lard.

                • Theoderic Braun

                  What a strange person you are!

                  “… the Left are pushing hard to delegitimise and demonise any viewpoints that do not conform to their programme of coercion and intimidation…”

                  How can you spout nonsense like this when YOU are the one trying to stop ME from posting a genuine opinion on this blog? When you are the one who wrote only a short while ago: “There is a place for such as you, where you will feel right at home. It’s called North Korea. Off you toddle.”

                  You are the one trying to rudely stop open debate not me.

                  This is an open blog where members of the public are permitted to air their opinions which, when they are contrary or inimical to yours, you figuratively try to shout down or bully people enough to discourage them from posting. I have no idea whatsoever why you have blathered on so much about “socialism”, North Korea or the USSR, or whatever. I haven’t mentioned any of those things anywhere and have directed what I have written to challenging the Bedroom Tax and government policy generally; so I call you a “troubled soul” because you seem paranoid enough to invent things, or attribute imagined things, to other people who are not your enemies but persons with a different view to your own obviously blinkered outlook on life.

                  So for me it is wrong for a developed 21st century country to drive a widow in early sixties, or a family with two children formerly with their own rooms that the government say must now share a room, or someone sick and disabled, or any innocent and deserving person, from stable homes they might have occupied for decades to save less than £20.00 per week per family in Housing Benefit awarded by means of the Bedroom Tax.

                  Look in the mirror.

                  Everything you have said about me is true of you and not one word of it applicable to me personally.

                • Colonel Mustard

                  Far too long and tedious. I only read the first line. One day you’ll grow up enough to realise we are all strange.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Seconded, sir!

  • the viceroy’s gin

    Maybe the Millipedes are smarter than we give them credit for, and have adopted a sound strategy: When your enemy is imploding, stand aside and let him .

  • Theoderic Braun

    What does it say about Osborne’s personality and character that he threatens to convulse the lives of millions of the poorest and most vulnerable by means of another, grander welfare cap for purely political purposes in order to snooker Labour?

  • realfish

    How would Labour cut spending to stay under the cap?

    They have already told us. Rachel Reeves has already said that under Labour the State Pension will be included in the Benefits Cap.

    I’m amazed that the MSM have not asked her about the implications of this.

    • Frank

      I think that it is because they recognise that Rachel Reeves says stuff she doesn’t understand, a bit special needs if you will!

    • Theoderic Braun

      If you set the cap high enough you don’t have to cut benefits.

      • realfish

        If you set the cap high enough none of us will ever have to work again.

        • Theoderic Braun

          If we all lived according to Christian principles there would be no cruelty, poverty or injustice in the world and we wouldn’t be joking about things like a welfare cap and similar.

          • Fergus Pickering

            What nonsense. You know nothing about Christian principles-There would be disease and disability and depression and flood and famines and….

            • Theoderic Braun

              As with Conquest, Death, War and Famine I would advise you, respectfully, to get off your high horse.

              • Colonel Mustard

                Says the little boy on the highest horse of all.

                • Theoderic Braun

                  From high place the eye sees more which is why, I would imagine, my outlook is somewhat more compassionate and humane than many other readers of this blog (by the look of things).

  • Colonel Mustard

    Labour must be rattled. No trolls since yesterday. Presumably they are busy being briefed at HQ on their new scripted attack lines and soundbites. Mark well that this puts the Stalinist at the heart of the Labour party and all that implies.

    When it comes it will no doubt be about Tory perfidy rather than what they might offer the country instead. Negative rather than positive. Lies rather than truth. Pessimism rather than optimism. Failure rather than success. Atrophy rather than aspiration. Dogma rather than debate. Cliché rather than critique. Dystopia rather than Utopia.

    And all the 1001 other reasons, them not responsible or to be blamed, why their “vision” is limited to attacking anyone who disagrees with them, like rabid dogs..

    • Theoderic Braun

      I have no idea what any of this means but liked the alteration.

      • swatnan

        aliteration

        • Theoderic Braun

          Thank you. Apologies. Corrected.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Speak of the devil . . .

        I see that the B team has turned up for duty. Just as prolific in tagging as many other comments with socialist tripe as possible.

        • Theoderic Braun

          Heh, heh.

        • Kitty MLB

          As well as elephant traps, I think the Colonel is the Spectators
          big game hunter trapping sly deceitful leftie hyenas –
          Good for you Sir, I don’t know this one but clearly you do,
          a little pal of Telemachus I presume.

    • http://batman-news.com Whizjet

      What the Labour response will NOT be about is the cause of why we are where we are.
      The Labour Recession.
      The Brown economic disaster.
      The Labour deficit, and the Labour opposition to every single cut, and tax rise that attempts to reduce said deficit.
      Until Labour acknowledge that they got it utterly wrong on economics, immigration and illegal wars, I doubt that they will ever have credibility again.
      (At least amongst people who understand the difference between debt and deficit….)

  • Tony_E

    The right question to ask about the spare room subsidy removal is: Should all housing benefit (rent) recipients be subject to the same rules, irrespective of who their landlord is?

    Labour removed the subsidy for one set of landlords because they saw the private sector as being able to ‘profit’ from the mis-allocation of resources. There is no cogent reason for the rules to be different in the public housing sector.

  • Holly

    Happy First Day of Spring 2014.

  • ohforheavensake

    On the government’s own figures, the bedroom tax costs more than it saves. I’d guess that’s what Labour will point out.

    If this is Osborne’s elephant trap, it’s not a very good one.

    • DWWolds

      But even if that is the case it misses the point. Why on earth should anyone expect taxpayesr to fund what they feel they want and are entitled to rather than what they really need.

      • Theoderic Braun

        Because “We’re all in it together” of course as Gideon keeps telling us ceaselessly!

        • HookesLaw

          And if so why cannot people who do not need the rooms give them up to those who do?

          • Theoderic Braun

            That was never the idea.

            The government knew that most people affected would not move out of their homes but pay the Bedroom Tax by other means: the real idea was to try to cut the Housing Benefit bill by forcing under-occupying tenants to meet their rents from other monies when their Housing Benefit was cut. If you can pay the Bedroom Tax you can under-occupy to your heart’s content and this is what has happened as far as most tenancies are concerned. Only the very poorest of the poor, living on benefits, were actually driven to move (often because of eviction) to other premises (bed and breakfast or hotels quite often). If the government actually wanted to do something about under occupation by social tenants it would have given local authorities the power to forcibly move under-occupiers to smaller accommodation no matter whether they could pay the Bedroom Tax or not.

            The Bedroom Tax was a con.

            It was basically a money grab in respect to Housing Benefit and has been an unmitigated failure in pretty much every respect.

            • Fergus Pickering

              Surely it is tooo early to tell. Incidentally one nice big council house has recently fallen vacant. Or has it/ Where will Bob Crowe’s free house go?

              • Theoderic Braun

                Well, you’ve got me. It isn’t in my nature to make flippant comments about anybody so recently deceased. The fact that you are capable of such behaviour says a lot about your character.

        • DWWolds

          So you believe that taxpayers should be liable to fund every demand those on benefits make.

          • Theoderic Braun

            I didn’t write that.

            But in a civilised country in the 21st century people should have food, drink and shelter guaranteed along with a decent standard of life and security measured relatively against the current wealth of the nation: everybody born in the UK should expect this consideration as a right, just as a free education for children is a right (paid for out of taxation by everyone whether they have families themselves or not). Vulnerable people should be afforded particular care and protection, i.e., families with children, single parents, sick and disabled citizens, elderly people and the unemployed. A rising tide of poverty and homelessness, where individuals have to resort to charities in order to nourish themselves and their children, is indicative of a sick and failing society; it is not a sign of progress but one of abject failure across the board.

            No one should be allowed to fall by the wayside.

            No one should be forgotten or abandoned.

            That’s what I am saying.

    • Tony_E

      The point about SRS removal is not purely to save money, it is to impose a market efficiency to the allocation of housing stock and the funds that follow that.

      This would never occur quickly. But as new tenants make choices about what housing needs they have and make their choices accordingly, the housing stock will be allocated more accurately to need. Also, where larger families are living in cramped conditions at a high cost to the taxpayer, there may be savings when they are allocated the housing that is currently under occupied.

      It is not quick, or painless. However, that in itself does not justify avoiding it.

      • Theoderic Braun

        So you’d be for the Mansion Tax then to “encourage” under-occupying home owners to downsize to smaller properties?

        • Tony Quintus

          No, because people have bought their “Mansions” and already paid stamp duty and council tax on them.
          Just how many times do you think something should be taxed?

          • Theoderic Braun

            Well, considering that something like 10% of the population own 90% of the nation’s wealth I would imagine that the super-rich amongst us would be able to absorb the Mansion Tax and a much bigger Council Tax quite painlessly. Most of these are foreigners who want to live here or home-grown plutocrats who made or inherited their fortunes here, have benefited most from living within our society, and should hence reasonably contribute the most, tax-wise, to enable our society to prosper.

            Fair is fair.

            • Tony Quintus

              Why should you care how much more somebody else has than you, if you have enough? That is the politics of envy, I prefere the politics of aspiration, not neo-marxist redistributionalist nonsense.

              • Theoderic Braun

                No. It’s the politics of economy. In a country which has an insufficiency of family sized accommodation while millions of people under-occupy private housing in anti-social ways, locking housing out of the market and denying people with children the chance to purchase such, taxation could be one means used by government to encourage under-occupiers to move to accommodation more appropriate to the size of their household freeing up bigger homes to be put on the open market. Like the Bedroom Tax it would represent a quite reasonable choice to those affected: pay up or get out. More larger houses would become available for purchase and rent and the government would receive more revenue enabling it to build more social housing or run the Help-to-Buy scheme till Kingdom Come.

                Win-win.

                • Fergus Pickering

                  A Christian… must be stamped out!

                • Theoderic Braun

                  Who’d ya think you are? Nero? Let’s be having you then, Caesar, if you think your hard enough!

              • Theoderic Braun

                If I were you I would aspire to be something much better than you appear to be, or at least somewhat more informed.

        • HookesLaw

          People buy houses with their own money – and pay tax for the privilege. Benefits are a gift to the needy with our money. i think the phrase is ‘to each according to his needs’. If people do not need the extra room then we should not gift them the money to keep it.

          The so called mansion tax is just another lefty excuse to tax people – it has no other merit.

          • Theoderic Braun

            Most people (who don’t live in big houses) would beg to disagree with you according to almost every poll. Personally I rather see a much more banded version of Council Tax under which people who choose to under-occupy large private houses get surcharged for exercising that privilege.

    • Theoderic Braun

      Labour are going to vote FOR the cap. The so called elephant trap is actually therefore no trap at all.

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