Today the latest official HB figures have been released and these detail the HB picture at the second Thursday in March. March 8th to be exact, which coincidentally is 666 days since the Coalition took office. The devil is in the detail it is said and forgive the sarcasm in the rest of this blog. I have commented each month for at least 9 months now on the latest HB figures including the fact that the Prime Minister lied to Parliament about the HB figures in January at PMQs. Despite this being unambiguous nobody takes any notice that it has been proven Cameron lied about HB figures – and whether knowingly or unknowingly he did lie and not just mislead.
So yes it’s that time of the month again the day this Coalition release the Housing Benefit figures at the same day as the jobless count hoping you won’t notice how awful the HB count and cost actually is! Again why we have to have the official figures with such a time lag – in this case 14 weeks and 6 days, or 104 days – is wholly unacceptable – but again who is actually reading this?
As per usual both the claimant has risen to 5,104,650 and the overall HB cost has increased to £22,774,649,060.50 – or £22.77bn in short form.
This is an increase since the Coalition took office on Friday 11 May 2010 to these latest figures which detail the position at 8 March 2012 of £1.912bn or in short form and every day of the 666 days this Coalition has been in office – a devil of a problem for the Coalition!
This is the same Coalition who said (in June 2010) their HB reforms would save £2bn to the overall HB bill they inherited from the last lot who they said had let the HB bill run riot! So how do we describe the latest official figures released today which show the HB bill is already £3.9bn above this Coalition’s target?
Or should we compute what the overall bill will be if this Coalition lasts the full term and holds a general election on 7 May 2015. That would be a simple sum of course just add the 238 days left in 2012 to the 365 in 2013 and 365 in 2014 and then the 128 in 2015 – that’s 1096 days to go with an average daily increase of £2,871,007.53 per day and this becomes a further £3,146,624,252.88p – or again in short form £3.15bn taking the overall HB bill to £25,921,273,310.62 (£25.92bn) and some £7.92bn over target – about 44% over target!
But I’m being mischievous aren’t I? Universal Credit will be implemented in stages from October 2013 and will cut the HB bill significantly and so much so that some social housing tenants on welfare benefits won’t receive a penny in HB to pay the rent that is now paid in full by HB. Yes you read that correctly see my earlier blog today here.
Well yes I am being mischievous as I am ignoring the fact that my simple figure above also fails to include any increase in the average cost per claimant (up 3.37% since May 2010) and ignores any increase in the claimant count (up 5.54% since May 2010). Incorporating these figures as an average would see the overall HB bill rise significantly by £5.65bn and not £3.15bn by May 2015 taking it to £28.42bn.
But even that £28.42bn may be an underestimate too.
Today’s figures confirm significant trends I first commented upon In November 2011 that (a) an increasing number of working tenants are now claiming HB and (b) especially its private sector variant LHA meaning more private tenants are now claiming in increasing numbers. Of the 10,150 increase in claimant count announced today we see 4,800 of these being working tenants and 8,040 of the overall claimant count rise (79%) coming in the private sector.
What this suggests is that the known £6.9bn of HB that the DWP admits in its official figures is due to tenants but goes unclaimed each year, is starting to be claimed.
In fact, and again as I have said numerous times before, Universal Credit in its process is a one-stop-shop where the claimant is assessed not only for all benefits being received but also for the benefits he or she could claim. In simple terms the non take-up rates (NTUR) such as the £6.9bn in HB mentioned above along with the £8.34bn NTUR or unclaimed but known to be due in Working Tax Credit should be paid in full with the UC process.
Of course just these 2 benefits alone would add over £15bn alone to the overall welfare bill which UC is supposed to be the policy which saves money on welfare spend!! But hey as I say above just who is reading these blogs!!
So, to summarise this little whimsy the £6.9bn of HB unclaimed is added to the potential £28.42bn projection at May 2015 making £35.32bn. From this we can subtract the savings UC will make by not paying HB in full or at all to larger families on benefits the issue in my previous blog today (unquantified as yet) and increase it with the increase in the older population growth – who aren’t to be capped by UC at all – oh and then deduct the reduced HB paid to 184,790 male claimants aged between 25 and 34, oh and the 84,500 female ones too that now only get the shared accommodation rate if in the private sector (but soon to be ‘replicated’ to the social rented sector?) and…
Well it’s going to be over £30bn isn’t it by 2015, just a mere 66% over coalition original target and at least 30% more than revised one of last month!
PS – I’ve just been hit by a load of figs!!
Notes & References (for those who forgive my sarcasm!)
Original Coalition HB cost targets and the revised ones of £23bn – still way off mark!