Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why subsidise lazy Londoners?

Yet another Government U-turn is expected, this time over the plan to limit the amount of money a family can claim in benefits to £26,000 a year.

It seems this is not enough money to keep the undeserving poor in the manner to which they have become accustomed.

So there is every danger that David Cameron, who must giddy from all the U-turns he has completed in the last couple of weeks, will order yet another.

It would be one of the most unreasonable and unfair of all the twists and turns his Coalition has taken so far.

How could anybody complain that £26,000 a year in benefits isn’t enough money for the average work-shy family when most families in the Black Country already make do with less?

Wages in the Black Country are below the average for the West Midlands and they, in turn, are below the national average which is, itself, below the £26,000 benefits cap.

Average pay levels across the Black Country are running at £22,369 – and even that varies between £21,200 in Sandwell and £23,155 in Dudley (the figure for Walsall is £22,537 and for Wolverhampton it’s £22,584).

Yet the average for the region as a whole is £23,807 while the national average is £25,520.

So, under the Government’s existing plans, anyone who lives on benefits can secure an income – tax free, please note – which is almost £4,000 a year more than the average Black Country worker gets.

Last year, Chancellor George Osborne announced the £26,000 cap arguing it was unfair 50,000 families received more in handouts than the average family earned from going out to work.

The limit, which won’t be imposed for another two years, would apply to the total received from jobseekers' allowance, income support, employment support allowance, housing benefit, council tax benefit, child benefit and child tax credit.

It means that some people now living in expensive rented accommodation, especially in London, will have to move somewhere cheaper.

Yet it seems the “London lobby” is now demanding changes to the plan because they claim the cap is unfair on the poor of Kensington and Chelsea.

The Government is right to want to reduce Britain’s massive benefits bill – it hands out more than £164 billion in benefits yet revenue from income tax comes in at only £140 billion.

Someone on the average Black Country wage of £22,369 can expect to pay £4,795.72 in tax and national insurance.

This is a huge amount from a relatively modest pay packet – especially when the money is being used to subsidise people who don’t work at all and prefer to live off the State.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, condemns the Government for bringing back the idea of the “deserving” and the “undeserving” poor – as if there’s something wrong in that.

There’s no doubt many people on benefits are perfectly capable of fending for themselves, they just prefer not to.

The snag is, as even Labour leader Ed Miliband has finally acknowledged, we live in a culture where it is perfectly acceptable for some people to milk the system and do nothing in return.

“Red Ed” admitted Labour was guilty of supporting “those on benefits who were abusing the system because they could work – but didn’t.

“We did too little to ensure responsibility at the bottom. I say – no more. We will be a party that rewards contribution, not worklessness.”

Successive Governments have been content to sit back and watch the benefits culture grow and blossom.

Many people regard a life on the dole as a perfectly reasonable career option – especially when, as some do, they can supplement their income in various shady ways.

When even the leader of the Labour Party realises something has to give, it offers a little encouragement for the vast majority of grafters who slave away to keep their financial heads above water.

Some people must wonder why they bother to work at all when they can see their workless neighbours living high on the hog.

A friend of mine was complaining only the other day that the “workless” family over the road has a better car, Sky TV and foreign holidays which he and his working wife simply can’t afford.

Where, he wondered, did all their money come from?

One answer is that it comes from him and the millions like him – honest taxpayers doing their best to make ends meet and look after their families.

If thousands of families want more money so they can continue living in London, the answer is not to lift the £26,000 benefits cap. It’s to encourage them to get a job.

It’s not as if work in London is in short supply. At the moment, all the low-paid jobs go to immigrants (legal and illegal) because they are prepared to put in the hours and make the effort required to earn a living.

If lazy Londoners really can’t be bothered to work, they should move out and go somewhere where the rents are lower.

Not that they’ll be coming to the Black Country to work – they couldn’t afford the drop in income.

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