I was speaking with a friend today who said “You had some fun taking the p*ss mercilessly out of Lord Freud yesterday.” He’s right I did but it is not a laughing matter as once you get over the shock of his appalling comments on people with disabilities that anger and calls for his sacking I argued late last night should be as much for his incompetence and performance as Welfare Minister.
Here is where the lies and deliberate lies come in and despite it being typical that MPs (and Lords) lie I still hate being lied to by those in government and regardless of political party. My anger over being lied to is heightened when those lies are easily disproved with a 2 minute google search on actual facts.
For example this coalition is fond of telling us – the lowly plebs, Joe Public, the electorate – that they (a) inherited an unsustainable mess from the last lot; and (b) they are sorting out the ‘burgeoning’ welfare state with their policies; and (c) especially the case with Housing Benefit for which I could source dozens of times when Freud, IDS, Steve Webb and McVey have said the Housing Benefit bill doubled under the last lot.
That is simply untrue and must be a known lie of itself as below are the facts taken from the DWP’s own figures AND it is also a blatant lie as it is an error of commission as this coalition fails to tell us what their performance was with Housing Benefit which as you can see is far worse than the ‘last lot.’
The last lot -v- She who must be obeyed
As the above shows in stark terms the Thatcher years saw Housing Benefit rise by more than SIX FOLD and is a much greater increase in the HB bill than the ‘last lot’ – in fact Thatcher’s HB record is over EIGHT TIMES AS BAD as the Blair/Brown record.
You can also deduce from the above that the Major administration until 1997 saw the HB bill rise from £5.095 billion per year to the £11.38 billion per year inherited by the first Blair government. Or in stark terms Major more than doubled the HB bill in 6 years and the ‘last lot’ did not double the bill in 13 years.
How about the claim that this coalition make they are cutting the ‘burgeoning’ welfare spend?
Again I could cite Freud, IDS et all saying as much on so many occasions. Yet let’s look at the facts, yes those pesky official numbers which THIS government released a month ago.
As you can clearly see all parts of the overall ‘welfare spend’ of welfare benefits and tax credits have risen 13% since the election of May 2010. This Tory-led coalition have not reduced the welfare spend at all either in overall terms or in real terms allowing for inflation. The welfare spend has increase in real terms and, if you will, ‘burgeoned’ even more.
Why us (Joe Public et al) believe IDS, Freud and the rest when they constantly say they have brought the ‘excesses of the last lot’ down and under control beggars belief. As I say above all MPs lie or at least are economical with the truth yet this coalition blatantly and knowingly lies and the public just sit back and believe it to be true!
Its that old adage of tell a lie often enough and people believe it to be fact or as Thomas Paine put it in the aptly named Common Sense:
“…a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right.”
Unfortunately us, the same general public which laps up these lies believing them to be true, is unwilling to make the time to find fact. Joe Public has become used to soundbite and superficial soundbite while still holding that quintessentially British notion of the government wouldn’t lie to us they have been brought up to believe. It is only on the rarest of occasions and with constant bombardment of media coverage that the general public is willing to reconsider and the bedroom tax is a case in point.
The bedroom tax has become an electoral liability and even Tories will admit to that. Yet when the bedroom tax first came in it wasn’t viewed that way. The general public and a whopping 78% of them thought it was fair that it should be applied to the stereotypical benefit scrounger who was given something many hardworking families could not afford. Yet repeated media coverage of physically disabled people being hit by the bedroom tax even though they had no option but to sleep apart and in separate rooms HAS changed the opinion of the general public….yet only after repeated campaigning and media bombardment across social media and national TV, radio and press media.
In getting carried away taking the p*ss out of Lord Freud yesterday and after all he is the acknowledged architect of the hated bedroom tax I came across an Inside Housing article on the CIH conference in June 2013 a few months after the bedroom tax.
These are the words of Brendan Sarsfield the chair of perhaps the most influential housing lobby known as the G15 or the real big boys of social housing in a separate opinion article in August 2013 entitled “Thinking Big:
Take this summer’s Chartered Institute of Housing conference as an example. On stage with Lord David Freud, the minister for welfare reform who helped usher in a new wave of controversial initiatives, Mr Sarsfield stated that, outside the packed room of housing’s great and good, the majority of people agree with the government’s bedroom tax.
He says the penalty isn’t ‘the worst housing strategy in the world’, but argues it has ‘been implemented very unfairly’ and is driven by the Treasury’s desire to cut the welfare bill.
One chief executive who was in the audience at the CIH conference says listening to ‘Brendan cosy up to the one person he should have been standing up to’ was ‘an insult to those of us who work tirelessly for vulnerable people every day’.
Mr Sarsfield dismisses this criticism as coming from ‘a very small minority’ within the housing sector. ‘I think I’m right and I don’t say that with any pleasure, I just think sometimes the truth hurts,’ he says.
‘The government believes it has the support of the nation and I think our job is to make sure that the public knows who we house and that they’re ordinary people who want to work, want to get on,’ he adds.
As you can see this ‘thinking’ was ALL about and led by the perceived view of the general public and the G15 is incredibly influenced by public opinion and very influential in ‘leading’ on policy responses for all social landlords. What the big boys do others follow in simple terms.
Yet now we know that the bedroom tax is deeply unpopular and the general public as well as even hardline Tories are against it social housing policy and response to the bedroom tax has been directed based on a hugely false premise and should readdress this and do the exact opposite. Yet it won’t do that and we see social landlords who are notoriously slow in changing policy and direction in any case carrying on with a policy of saying ‘ there is little we can do’ to challenge the bedroom tax while every other actor involved, from the tenant to the disability lobby group to politicians from all parties have changed their view and have changed their policy and strategy to one of challenging this hated policy.
A case of social landlords being slow, stubborn, failing to see the reality, failing to move with the flow and relying on nebulous public opinion as fact rather than evaluating fact and then acting upon it. I don’t doubt there is some political support probably in Mr Sarsfield case for the bedroom tax and Tory policy but even if not this still revels the inactions, poor practice and sheep mentality of all other landlords in blithely following the lead of the G15 (with some rare but very honourable exceptions)
Those same ‘social landlords’ while correctly arguing that 95% of housing spend goes on revenue and not capital housing issues – a very good but separate point – implicitly fail to state and broadcast the facts of HB and overall welfare benefit spend claimed by this coalition and used to disparage and attack social housing per se and in fact untrue. Social housing simply does not do proactive challenge or raise awareness of the facts surrounding social housing and is content to tug its forelock and NOT challenge government policy.
Some do and have set up #4social housing and SHOUT or campaigns which seek to do this. Yet they only preach to an internal housing audience and fail to get their many key and correct message to the general public. That is a huge omission and a huge fault of a lack of thinking on their part. True they are not responsible for the social housing sectors 30 year record of not standing up for social housing and the many benefits it give the taxpayer and perhaps such a task is beyond the best efforts of the sector to persuade the general public of just how good social housing is and how it SAVES their taxes not subsumes them, yet they will never know unless they try and they do need to direct their efforts externally from the housing audience and to the external general public.
They should start where this post began – with fact. Take away the £1.125 billion social housing receives as ‘subsidy’ by way of grant and social landlords would cost the HB bill the same as private landlords do and that is over £4 billion per year more!
Dear Taxpayer, If you give me £1,125 a year I will save you £4,000 per year. Yours social landlords
Tell me one taxpayer who wouldn’t want a return on their investment!!
Dear Taxpayer, in case you’re dithering on that offer which in financial terms must appear as too good to be true we will also continue to accommodate the “problem cases” of the Sick the Old, the Disabled and the Supported as a continued part of that deal. Yours social landlords
Not hard messages to sell to the general public but they have not been sold at all over the past 30 years and they are all based on fact – that pesky thing that social landlords in their apathy and forelock tugging to whatever government is in power failed to evaluate and disseminate.
Or in simple terms social landlords based their bedroom tax policy on the fleeting whim of public opinion and did not change course. And yet refuse to even tell the fickle general public what a wonderful bloody deal social housing gives the taxpaying general public in the first place.
The bedroom tax has proved that opinions of the fickle general public can change and do a complete role reversal when fact is revealed and the general public is made aware of those facts. Now what would any sane person think the social housing sector should do as a result of that?
Yes I know this is long and won’t be read by those in social housing. I did enquire as to the cost of renting Owls and flying these message in one by one to all social landlords as today I’m told the drones so beloved of certain social landlords wont be publicly available or be fully licensed until 2023….However, the threat of a writ from J K Rowling for that idea….