Today sees the release of the official Housing Benefit figures from the DWP and these record the figures up to May 2014 and the first four years under the coalition. Snapshot is:
- Overall HB bill is now £24.11 billion up from £20.87 billion in May 2010
- June 2010 coalition says it will reduce HB bill by £2 billion yet it has increased by £3.24 billion meaning the total HB bill is £5.24 billion more per year than the coalition promised the welfare reforms to HB of LHA caps, benefit cap and the bedroom tax would achieve
- May 2010 cost of Housing Benefit to those in work was £2.90 billion and four years later that cost is now £5.13 billion per year.
Time for a closer look at just how bad these figures are for the coalition and, for once dear reader, we can read some FACT about Housing Benefit from the DWP’s own hand. Let’s start with the 3 highlighted points above 1. The overall bill
- The figures show at Table 4 at cell C80 that there are 4,985,741 HB claimants.
- The figures at table 5 at cell C81 that the average each receive is £92.69 per week
- Simple multiplication reveals the total HB cost is at May 2014 £24, 113, 196,250 or £24.11 billion
2. Actual -v- Promised The May 2010 figure was £20.87 billion devised as above by multiplying 4,751,526 claimants at £84.20 per week average. In the July 2010 issue of HB Digest published by DWP we see: –
The Chancellor announced a package of Housing Benefit (HB) reforms in his Budget statement on 22 June. It is the most significant and comprehensive reform programme for HB since the scheme was introduced in the 1980s. The background is the budget deficit and the reductions in public expenditure that the Government is making to tackle it. Ministers are clear that the overall cost of HB,forecast to be around £20 billion this financial year, must be controlled and reduced. The package of reforms will save nearly £2 billion by 2014/2015. There are also important policy considerations around fairness and work incentives that lie behind the reforms”
The package of HB reforms comprised various LHA reforms, the benefit cap and the bedroom tax with the aim of reducing overall cost of the Housing Benefit bill by £2bn per year meaning the governments own target was nearly £2 billion savings on the then £20.87 billion HB bill, or a target of £18.9 billion by 2014/15 – or today. The overall HB bill is £24.11bn or a cost of greater than £5 billion more per year than the target – or a cost of £5bn more than IDS said his great ‘reforms’ would achieve. 3. Housing Benefit to those IN WORK The same quote above says “There are also important policy considerations around fairness and work incentives that lie behind the reforms” – Though I don’t suspect the amount of Housing Benefit paid to those in work increasing from £2.9 billion in May 2010 to £5.13 billion in May 2014 was what IDS had in mind!
- Table 6 of the official HB release today at Cell E80 has 1,058,569 HB claimants in work
- Table 7 of the same at Cell E82 say they each received £92.96 per week in HB
- Again multiply the two to get the £5.13 billion per year figure
In May 2010 there were 650,551 in work claiming HB so since the election and under IDS’s watch the number of those in work claiming HB has risen by 408,018 working families. More correctly, risen by 408,018 HARD working families as surely that overused political term the ‘hardworking’ family applies much more to those working full time and receiving a wage so low they qualify for full Housing Benefit. Full housing benefit? YES – the working family receives more on average at £92.96 per week than the overall average HB in payment per week of £92.69 for all HB claimants. The cost of HB paid to working families at May 2010 was £2.9 billion (£85.50 to 650,551 claimants) and so this has increased by £2.23 billion per year since the election and increase of 77%. The taxpayer is subsidising low wage paying employers through Housing Benefit by £5.13 billion per year. That is what these figures say. That subsidy has increased by £2.23 billion per year under the coalition watch. To put this subsidy to employers into context the only time we usually red of housing benefit and subsidy is that social housing is subsidised housing, it is only cheaper than market housing because it is subsidised and other barbs thrown at the social housing model and the social tenant. Yet social housing has received £4.5bn of subsidy from this coalition over four years or £1.13 billion per year. Contrast that with the £5.13 billion subsidy the low wage paying employer gets from Housing Benefit. Employers get £4 billion per year more in subsidy than social housing! What frankly annoys the hell out of me is that the spin and sophistry that goes on about welfare reforms (sic) such as reducing HB and the bedroom tax, benefit cap and LHA reform which were all introduced to reduce the HB bill. The FACTS show this has not worked. A year ago I published a blog to say that working families on HB had broken through the 1 million mark which they had as the official figures show (see Table 6 E69) that in July 2013 there were 1,006,191 working claimants getting HB. Yet only a week or so ago and some TWELVE MONTHS AFTER THE FACT we see the national media and the House of Commons Library and the Labour Party all saying that SHORTLY the number of working families would pass the one million mark! This errant report from the House of Commons library and picked up by Independent and others and Rachel Reeves for Labour said: –
According to the House of Commons statistics, 478,000 people with jobs claimed housing benefit in 2009/10, rising to an expected 962,000 this year. On current trends, the number of claimants will increase by a further 276,000 to 1,238,000 in 2018-19. The cost to the taxpayer has climbed from £2.2bn in 2009/10 to £4.6bn this year and to a projected £6bn in 2018-19.
All of the above is wrong as the official figures show. The number of working HB claimants will not RISE to 962,000 this year that number in May 2010 was 1.058,569 already. It went passed the ‘expected 962,000’ figure in December 2012 as a matter of FACT (964,145 to be exact) The cost to the taxpayer has climbed to £4.6bn? No as a matter of FACT it is already £5.13 billion as at May 2014 as I explain above with very specific references to qualified FACT and without any scope for ambiguity. In this fast paced world where we can see instantaneous video on our smartphones in the middle of a cornfield of something happening live 13,000 miles away how can we not read a f*cking spreadsheet of factual data?? Given that welfare reforms are high up the political agenda and will play a part in the next general election, the Tory spin machine on HB and welfare reform has us believe that both are working and the political cry of Four more years, Four more years is their message. Yet the FACTS of the matter mean the reality is and the battlecry should be FOUR POOR YEARS, FOUR POOR YEARS. As Thomas Paine said in Common Sense, the battlecry for American independence “a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right.” Believe IDS’s rhetoric and deceit and you would think his welfare reforms are working. Scratch under that superficial veneer reader and the FACTS tell a very different story indeed. Time to stir!