Thursday 27th March
There is to be a vote, which the Government will surely win to cap the total amount spent on benefits. This is supposed to be legally binding, and to hold future Governments to account. Labour will be reluctantly supporting the measure, more out of fear of being reckless spenders than out of conviction. It is a very political trap being laid by George Osborne, who hopes to embarrass Milliband into voting for something he doesn’t really believe in.
But let us for a minute examine this principle. Health spending has been similarly capped, although there is some argument that maybe savings can be made in some areas without compromising treating patients. But the difference with benefits are that there is no element of choice, benefits are an entitlement and not a choice; in a way you have a choice whether to be treated if and when you may become ill, but if you are entitled to a benefit, you either qualify or you do not. And mostly the people who are claiming benefits have no choice, if they do not receive the benefit they will not eat, or they will become ill through lack of heating. And their numbers and the number of claims (although they are really entitlements) is not and cannot be capped. They are served according to their needs, and not according to the amount of money allocated for their entitlements. So what happens if by October say, the budget cap has been reached; will new applicants, new destitute people simply be refused because the budget cap has been reached. And will this apply to existing benefit recipients or just for new ones? Surely if as a citizen one is entitled to a certain entitlement if one loses ones job, or becomes too ill to work then that entitlement cannot be granted to some and not to others. No-one would dream of a Hospital closing its doors half way through the year because it had already treated its budgeted number of patients for the whole year.
In principle, of course a budget should be set and every effort made to stay within that budget, but in practice you cannot ride roughshod over long established rights as citizens because a bunch of right wing politicians think enough is enough. Look at the mess America keeps getting into, as they reach their Spending Ceiling. We will see….