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Benefits who?

It’s the small print that matters in agreements. Likewise it is often those passages in speeches that don’t make the headlines that contain much the most interesting passages.

All the headlines of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s speech was on child benefit being withdrawn from households paying tax at the higher rate. The Tory press went overboard on the matter. ‘This was hitting the middle classes. It was unfair on stay at home mothers etc ‘

But George Osborne, in the very same speech,also announced a new £500 a week cap on welfare benefits. In his words it was ‘designed to ensure that work less households no longer receive thousands of pounds in benefits more than the average working family receives in pay.’

Now because it has been a popular sport for some time to demonise those on benefits very little attention was paid to this aspect of his speech.

The changes mean that household benefit payments will be capped at around £500 per week by the time of implementation in 2013.

This cap will apply to the combined income derived from benefits including Job seekers Allowance, Income Support, Employment Support Allowance, housing and council tax benefits, Child Benefit, and Carers Allowance.

Now a cap of £500 may on the face of it seem quite high. But when one considers that often in some of our large cities, rents and therefore housing benefit payments alone may take the recipient above the £500 level. In such cases it will put many families into real difficulty and make it virtually impossible for them to stay in our biggest towns and cities.

So where will they go? At a guess they will be forced to look for areas with relatively cheap housing costs.

In the eighties these were places like the North Wales coast and other parts of rural Wales were renting houses were comparatively cheap.

At the time many Welsh politicians were angry at what they saw as the negative effect of these incomers. Often these politicians would be pressing for only local people to be housed. Such campaigns had limited success and went against the obligation of authorities to house those in greatest housing need.

It looks as if the Westminster coalition are about to repeat past mistakes. What was said in the speech would be better if it was not acted upon.

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