Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Spending Review

My instant reaction.

Overall, I'm relieved that it is not as bad as I feared.

The measures for schools which show definite LD input are the most satisfactory. My two oldest friends are teachers in inner-city schools, who voted LD for the first time this year. I've been wondering if they are still speaking to me ever since, but I think they are going to be pleased by this.

However, I'm very unhappy about the prioritisation of universal benefits over welfare. I fear that British society is going to increasingly look like Canada, with an underclass who are homeless and/or dependent on charitable handouts. I don't find that remotely acceptable.

I predict that the rise in the age threshold for housing benefit will result in a flood of homeless young people sleeping on the streets as we had when Thatcher removed benefits for young people. Expect tent-cities in London parks. There will be a reduction in sex-trafficked migrants smuggled into the UK because the pimps will find plenty of recruits among our homeless young women.

The time-limited invalidity benefit together with the cap on benefits for large families is going to have a disastrous affect on the lives of many vulnerable people. It will result in broken marriages, children going into care and single parents and disabled people who would benefit from the support of a relationship being forced to struggle on alone.

Protecting non means-tested fuel allowance while slashing welfare benefits is breathtakingly cynical, and of course exactly the kind of thing Brown would have done.

I'm also very conscious that were Ian and I still in the UK, the spending review would be a disaster for us personally. We are in Canada because Ian's an historian who was made redundant by his university in 2004, but if he'd kept his job he'd be facing redundancy now, and I'd be losing my incapacity benefit, leaving us subsisting on very inadequate pensions. I used to be a legal-aid family lawyer, so even if I'd still been working, I would be hurting now. There are a lot of measures in the review that look a lot more bearable from 4,000 miles away.

Ian and I are going to be affected by the rise in state pension age. I think all people in their fifties would like the details as soon as possible so that we can amend our plans for our retirement. This is going to be a big blow for many women. However, it is also something I accept as a necessary and fair economy.

My mum is likely to be affected by the changes to social care. I'm pleased by the localisation, but if the NHS had not been ring-fenced, social care would not need this level of cuts. Should we expect a log-jam of elderly people to taking up much needed hospital beds because there are no care places for them?

What is very clear is the Liberal Democrat input into the review. That is a boost for us. I can't pretend to be happy with the coalition economic policy. I would have preferred the deficit to be reduced over 2 government terms, not one, and although some regressive measures are inevitable with cuts of this size, I think the most deprived are being hit too hard. However, the Conservatives on their own would be far worse.

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