08:27 Monday 15th July 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
PAUL STAINTON: A cap on the total amount of benefits that people aged sixteen to sixty four can receive has begun rolling out across England Scotland and Wales today. You’ve had many opportunities to comment on it this morning and I would say probably eighty or ninety per cent of you are for it, saying it’s about time. The measures will place a limit on what families and individuals can claim in benefits. Neil Cartmell is here. Morning, Neil.
NEIL CARTMELL: Good morning Paul. Hope you’re concentrating.
PAUL STAINTON: Of course. I’ve only got three minutes with you. I can concentrate for that amount of time. I would say about eighty per cent of people corresponding to the show this morning are all for the cap. And it’s a similar figure in London as well isn’t it? It seems the Government have hit on a winning formula, have they?
NEIL CARTMELL: Yes, I think any political party that has around about sevety seventy five per cent public buy-in is a pretty .. they’ll be happy with that. There’s no doubt about it. They’ve set this cap at five hundred pounds a week. It’s the magic figure, because it is representative of twenty six thousand pounds a year, which is the average UK take home pay. There are a couple of exemptions to mention. Disability Living allowance and its successor the Personal Independent doesn’t apply to this, so that if you claim that it doesn’t apply. Likewise, if you’re claiming Working Tax Credit, that doesn’t apply. And where the Government is concerned, that’s quite important, because that’s the incentive, that’s the carrot to say, go and find work. And if you do find work, then you’re exempt from these changes. Of course if you don’t or you can’t find work, the big pillars that are going to be hit are JobSeekers Allowance, Housing benefits and Child Tax Credits.
PAUL STAINTON: And not everyone it has to be said is happy with this cap at all, are they?
NEIL CARTMELL: No. Critics are saying .. I mean the big issue is about housing. because obviously the housing rental rates compared to different parts of the country are vastly different. There’s a report out this morning that talks about I think South Wales is the cheapest place to rent in the UK. But everybody knows the South East and London is far more expensive. So you have this situation where you’ve got a bit of a push me pull you going on. On one hand people are being encouraged to find work. But invariably the work is where the rents are highest. That’s where the concentration of jobs are. And of course on the other hand people are trying to cut costs and avoid paying exorbitant rates in rents, which means having to move away from the jobs. You’ve got this difficult situation. And that’s what the critics and the Opposition politicians have highlighted. Some have gone as far as saying we won’t just have rental arrears, we’ll have increased homelessness because of this measure.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes and we’re experiencing some of that in Peterborough, becase it’s quite a low place for rents, so we’re getting quite a few people coming up to Peterborough of course. And will it actually save any money? Because there’s some disagreement over that isn’t there as well.
NEIL CARTMELL: You’ve mentioned economic migration. That’s the other big thing. You end up with these kind of ghettos where people go because rents are cheaper. In terms of saving money, you be the judge really, or your listeners be the judge. Ninety billion pounds was the budget, or the money that was paid out in benefits in 2009/2010. This the Government say will save anywhere between a hundred and a hundred and ten million pounds. So is a hundred and ten million pounds much of a dent in ninety billion? I think a lot of people need to be the judge. certainly Ian Duncan-Smith the Work and Pensions Secretary would go down a slightly different line. He talks about fairness. It’s not just about the savings, but he says that it’s about making the system fairer. He talks about the benefit cap returning fairness to the benefit system. He talks about the taxpayer having trust in the welfare system, once these changes are in force. Again they touch on this number again, five hundred pounds a week, because they say it simply isn’t fair that people are claiming more in benefits that the average household will take home in a week. So there’s a dual purpose really here about savings which are minimal frankly, out of ninety billion, but then there’s this fairness issue, this principal issue at stake as well.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. It’s about fairness says Ian Duncan-Smith.