River Wissey Lovell Fuller

The Village Soapbox

March 2012

Benefit Cap

Regular readers will have deduced that my political views are a little to the left of centre, (I would very much like to see a more equitable society.) Nevertheless, like most people it seems, I regard it as highly inappropriate that some families are receiving more in benefit than the average wage and I support a cap. It seems wrong that some people are being subsidised to live in houses that the average family could not possibly afford. If a wage earner is unable to afford to live in an area where house prices and rents are beyond that which he can afford he would move away, and so it should be for a person on benefits. Having said that, I think it is important to recognise that the people receiving these benefits are not living the high life, their disposable income is no more than any other benefit recipient and less than most wage earners, the larger part of their benefit is going straight into the pockets of the landlords, they are the real beneficiaries of the housing benefit system. At a time when there is an acute housing shortage it is wrong that landlords should be able to exploit those that cannot afford to get their own property. At times like this market forces should not be allowed to run wild with something as fundamental as shelter. There was a very acute housing shortage in the period following the 39-45 war and the government of the day introduced rent restrictions to limit the extent of exploitation by landlords, perhaps something similar should be reintroduced until such time as the supply of housing is more nearly equal to the demand. Such a move would help to bring a halt to the ever increasing house prices in areas where the shortage is most intense, and curb the excess profits of the landlords.

Whilst I agree with the cap, it is no more than an attempt to remove some inequities that exist between people at the lower end of the financial spectrum. This government is still failing to do anything to remove the really serious inequities in society as a whole. A joke that I heard recently very neatly summarises the overall situation:

‘An investment banker, a Daily Mail reader and a benefit recipient were seated around a table - on the table were twelve biscuits. The investment banker takes eleven of the biscuits then turns to the Daily Mail reader and says “Watch out – that benefit scrounger is after your biscuit.”’

Plus ca change -

With these dark winter evenings I have found a little more time for reading, mostly history, and I have been struck by the way in which, as is often said, history repeats itself:

We were rather dismayed, if not completely surprised, when the extent to which MPs were fiddling their expenses came to light. This is not a new situation:

On 27 July 1848Abraham Lincoln, when a new member of Congress, made a speech in the House of Representatives. He was not yet a presidential candidate, but in his speech he attacked General Cass, who was campaigning for the Democratic nomination. He ridiculed the claims for his heroism and attacked him for his past expenses claims as Governor of Michigan, a total

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