14 June 2011

Universal credit
Reform, changing things for the better, is often difficult. The Tory-Libdems are aiming to replace a plethora of benefits and credits with a universal credit. Most people think simplification of the welfare system is desirable but the changes have thrown up a problem. London Councils, an umbrella for thirty three local authorities in London and the police and fire authorities, commissioned research from the Centre for social and economic inclusion (CSEI) into the impact of the universal credit on Londoners to see whether the credit offered enough incentive to get out-of-work parents in London to look for work in the face of childcare, housing, and transport costs. The report, Making work pay in London under universal credit (June 2011), is accessible as a pdf from the London Councils website here.

The report suggests that many Londoners and people elsewhere in the country will lose considerable money as a result of the reform. For example, a lone parent outside London, working on the minimum wage and with two children, could be £4364 a year worse off in spending power than under the present arrangements. Working couples on median London pay with children could be worse off. As always, read the details of the make up of the figures. The Tory Libdem government says there will be transitional arrangements to make sure no one will be worse off at the start.

Of course, it isn’t just London, it’s Cornwall too.

The cost of childcare is a major element in working families’ budgets and the report sensibly suggests that the geographical variation in child care costs should be recognised in the universal credit. I have already looked critically at the impact of Tory Libdem plans for local housing benefit and how plans for social housing tenure might damage incentives to work or improve oneself.

Pro-Cornish agenda
Yes, getting to grips with all this welfare stuff is more demanding than waving a flag but for many people in Cornwall welfare support is very important in their daily lives. The local political parties should be scrutinising the proposed changes and explaining how they see their impact upon people in Cornwall and suggesting how any undue adverse impact can be avoided. As I’ve said before, this is the real pro-Cornish agenda.

Spot the difference
This shows a difference between Cornwall and London councils. In London the councils commission and publish research on the impact of a proposed welfare change on their citizens. In Cornwall the council sells silk ties. Is that comparison entirely a caricature?