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Never let a serious crisis to to waste: The Implications of cuts to housing benefits in Britain. Chris Hamnett King’s College London. Structure of Talk. In this short talk I want to do three things. Outline and discuss the rationale for the cuts
King’s College London
The UK Coalition government’s proposals for welfare reform, announced between June and November 2010, represent perhaps the most radicalreshapingof the British welfare system since its introduction post-1945
In this respect, the government have paid heed to Rahm Emmanuel, President Obama’s chief of staff who declared in 2008 that ‘you should ‘never let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is it\'s an opportunity to do things you couldn\'t do before’.
The cuts have included limiting child benefit, both restricting eligibility to and time-limiting incapacity benefit payments, and cuts to level of housing benefit along with introduction of caps on total amounts payable.
‘ [T]oo much of our current system is geared toward maintaining people on benefits rather than helping them to flourish in work; we need reform that tackles the underlying problem of welfare dependency. That is why we are embarking on the most far-reaching programme of change that the welfare system has witnessed in generations. (IDS in DWP, 2010a)
The current housing benefit scheme in Britain was introduced in 1988, following the Social Security Act 1986. Its objective was to subsidise the cost of rental accommodation for tenants in the social and private-rented housing sectors. It is a means tested benefit, which is administered by local authorities and paid to eligible tenants. Entitlement is calculated by comparing current household needs and resources to their rent payments.
* Yvette Cooper MP, the Labour minister for social security, said in March 2010, ‘ Housing Benefit is important to help families on low income pay their rent, but it isn’t fair for the taxpayer to fund a very small minority of people to live in expensive houses which hard-working families could never afford’.
Autumn 2010 saw comment. The Observer (2010) stated that: ‘London councils revealed they were preparing a mass exodus of low-income families from the capital because of coalition benefit cuts’. John Cruddas, Labour MP for Dagenham commentated that ‘It is an exercise in social and economic cleansing…It is tantamount to cleansing the poor out of rich areas. It is a brutal and shocking piece of social engineering’.
‘We will not accept a Kosovo-style social cleansing of London. On my watch you are not going to see thousands of families evicted from the place where they have put down roots. The last thing we want to have in our city is a situation such as Paris, where the less well-off are pushed out to the suburbs’.
Mike Harris, LabourCouncillor in Lewisham stated in a letter to the Financial Times (2010) that the important issue is not the caps, but the 30th percentile limit on LHA which will affect all private rented tenants: