Shifty Looking Damian Green Sidles into the DWP.
On Monday the Guardian published this article:
The austerity agenda isn’t over. More people will sink further into poverty
There will be “no new search for cuts in individual welfare benefits” the secretary of state for work and pensions, Damian Green, has pledged. Not much news there, then. Green’s predecessor, Stephen Crabb, made the same promise in March, as a jittery Treasury sought to placate the Tory backbench revolt over cuts to disability benefits. The former chancellor George Osborne may be gone, but his welfare spending strategy remains largely intact for now.
During his Andrew Marr Show interview at the weekend Green made it sound like his “no more benefit raids” pledge was a sign that the austerity agenda was over. But it is not. Green confirmed that inherited current and planned cuts, amounting to billions of pounds by the end of the decade, would go ahead.
The language of welfare may well be less abrasive under Green, and his compassionate conservative presentation of welfare reform may aspire to be softer, but without material change, the net effect of the cuts will be the same as it would have been had Osborne still been in post: the living standards of millions of “just managing” low-income working households will continue to suffer, and the very poorest and most vulnerable will become poorer.
There is plenty that can be done to make universal credit more operationally humane: Green could make a start on this by scrapping the notorious six-week wait for a first universal credit payment, a rule dubbed “a recruiting sergeant for food banks” by Frank Field MP for its unerring ability to pitch low-income claimants into avoidable debt, rent arrears and food poverty. Green may also want to look again at the potentially explosive plans, currently being trialled, to introduce conditionality for low-paid workers on universal credit. Fining a claimant for not turning up to a jobcentre interview because they were at work is not a convincing advert for “making work pay”.
Green and May will have to accept that the social security system is, as the Fabian Society recently pointed out, rapidly becoming unfit for purpose. There are huge imbalances in who benefits: between working age recipients (who have shouldered the austerity burden) and pensioners (relatively unscathed); and between those on low incomes (who took the biggest hit), and the wealthy (who, according to the Fabians will by 2020 receive more financial support from the state in the form of personal tax allowances than poorer families will on benefits).
Two days ago the Independent noted,
There is a major squeeze on public spending and welfare payments still to come over the next five years as a result of government decisions already taken – including the filleting of almost £9bn from the tax credit and working age benefits bill.
These will assuredly diminish the living standards of the less well-off. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has projected that those in the poorest tenth of the population will lose £800 a year by 2020 relative to those in the second poorest tenth at £1,500 a year and the third poorest tenth at £1,200 a year.
What is Damien Green’s background?
Damian Green was born in Barry, Wales. He grew up in Reading, Berkshire and was educated at Reading School and then at Balliol College, Oxford where he was awarded a BA degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics in 1977, followed by a MA degree. He was President of the Oxford Union in 1977 and was the vice-chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students (now known as Conservative Future) from 1980 until 1982.
Not, we suspect, the kind of education (Grammar school, Oxford) and politics – including at the top of the hard-right free-market Thatcher worshiping Federation of Conservative Students – that would signal out somebody for compassionate, or even moderate positions on social security and the welfare state.
in 1998 Green was – rightly – very critical of the New Deal for the Unemployed. He called it a waste of taxpayers’ money, unable to train people in a way that made people attractive to employers, or, as he put it “providing suitable recruits. (The Four Failures of the New Deal, by Damian Green, 1998, Centre for Policy Studies.) Essentially this was cost-benefit analysis, which paid little attention to the needs of the out-of-work.
How will he stand on the use of private companies, known in academic circles as bands of thieves living off public money, by the DWP, for training the unemployed, for Universal credit, and so on?
We note this: “As Police Minister in the Coalition Government, Green called for increased partnerships between the police and the private sector.” from here).
As for austerity we also observe read this (Telegraph)
Damian Green, the new Work and Pensions Secretary, has indicated pensioner benefits may be cut after 2020 as he pledged to tackle “intergenerational fairness”.
In his first major interview since taking up the job, Mr Green defended the government’s current support for pensioners and heralded the fall in poverty among the elderly.
However he also said it was “absolutely” necessary to consider “over time” whether different generations are getting a fair share of the proceeds of economic growth.
It follows criticism of David Cameron’s decision to ring-fence pensioners from austerity cuts, introducing a “triple lock” on pensions and sticking with a promise of free bus passes and TV licenses.
Cutting benefits for pensioners will not mean better benefits for anybody else.
Just equality in misery, as he might have said as a Conservative Student.