NI Welfare Budget to be Slashed – What will our Politicians do?

UTV is reporting that the welfare budget in NI faces cuts of up to £450m. Cuts in welfare spending are made up of the likes of the following

Changes because of the spending cuts include: child benefits frozen for three years from April; Job Seekers Allowance claimants losing entitlement to the support for mortgage interest scheme if they have been on benefits for two years; housing benefit reduced by a tenth from April 2013 if a claimant has been on the benefit; and a compulsory medical examination for all new and existing working age DLA claimants from 2013.

NI is more dependent on state spending and social welfare than other regions of the UK, and dependence within NI varies immensely. West Belfast, for example, is much more dependent upon social welfare than north Down. In other words, these cuts have the potential to do serious damage to entire communities, communities that are already among the most deprived and that have the most social problems in western Europe.

These are also the communities that tend to vote most heavily in favour of the two leading lights of the NI Executive, the DUP and PSF. What will these parties do? It’s already clear from the statements of Peter Robinson and Sammy Wilson that the DUP is embracing the cuts agenda. Their nationalist counterparts on the other hand are being more coy, blaming British Tories, and presenting themselves as fairly powerless to do anything about them. Are they?

The UTV report points out that if the local politicians refuse to make the cuts, then they will probably just be made at Westminster before the money arrives in NI. That is one option. Another is to refuse to administer the cuts, and collapse the executive. Creating a crisis of this magnitude would force the Tory-LibDem coalition to think seriously about what it was doing. Our politicians are of course far too self-interested and enjoy the exercise of power too much to do this. Instead they are much more likely to administer the cuts while blaming the Tories and LibDems. Who of course deserve a great deal of blame, but we need only look at Wilson’s attitude towards the trade union demos and McGuinness’s praise for PFI to see that they mightn’t be all that far out of step with the locals.

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4 Responses to “NI Welfare Budget to be Slashed – What will our Politicians do?”

  1. Graycrow Says:

    Good article Garibaldy.

  2. shane Says:

    “Are they?”

    Aren’t they though? If the NI assembly refused to make cuts, it would set a precedent. And if they got away with it, what’s to stop Holyrood or Cardiff demanding the same thing? There’s no way Cameron would allow that, especially as he may be facing a backlash from voters in England and his own backbenchers about the extra spending given to Scotland. NI gets the most per head, and before the election Cameron singled out NI as the region where cuts were most needed. And from the Libcon perspective, there’s really nothing to loose as neither party have seats in the north.

    I find it amazing that the British government has learned nothing from the Irish crisis.

  3. Michael Craig Says:

    Singling out N.Ireland is only part of the issue, we need to argue against the attacks on all of the working class which are at the core of the white paper on welfare reform.

    Iain Duncan Smith’s white paper on welfare reform, while not a finished policy document, outlines proposals which will change the lives of millions of people. Mr. Duncan Smith says that the proposal is intended to lift up to half a million people of working age out of poverty, and his supporters claim that this has been his abiding passion since he entered politics.

    The whole project hinges on a new benefit which I.D.S. calls ‘Universal Credit’, but as someone who has been an advocate of ‘Universal Basic Income’ for nearly two decades, I can confirm on perusing this document that he has entirely missed the point.

    The whole point of a universal income is that it should be available to everyone in society without means testing or conditionality of any kind. It will come as a great shock to some that a group representing the unemployed and the sick would suggest giving money to everyone including those people who don’t need it, but that’s exactly what a universal income does, and anything which falls short of this is not ‘universal’!

    So why did I.D.S. Not push the boat out and go for true universality? In short, ideology, neo-liberal doctrine dictates that he had to introduce conditions along class lines, and this document is evidence of that bankrupt ideology on a grand scale.

    A proper universal income would ensure more freedom, more empowerment and more equality, and a chance of full citizenship for all in society, and in fact would eradicate relative poverty and encourage the long term unemployed into work, assuming of course, that jobs were available.

    This paper has designated a large section of society as incapable of being responsible for their own lives, therefore requiring sanction and compulsion and shares similarities to programmes which are used in prisons.

    Even if the conditions were removed from the ‘contract’ which everyone who claims the new ‘universal credit’ will have to make, and we accepted the argument that it has to be means-tested as we couldn’t afford to give it to everyone, (This argument is groundless as U.B.I. Would replace pensions and child benefit and parts of disability benefits and would have no cost above a certain tax threshold), there would still be flaws, the main one being that those currently receiving ‘income based’ incapacity benefit will be required to become job seekers and that mental illness will not be recognised as a disability.
    Page 35, paragraph 19, section b. says that everyone with a long-term illness must commit to preparing for work!

    Iain Duncan Smith took the ingredients of a good idea, added Tory doctrine and produced the most draconian attack on the worst off in society, and I advise him to go back to the drawing board, if these reforms are implemented he can expect more that a winter of discontent!

  4. Garibaldy Says:

    Thanks Graycrow.

    Shane,

    I take your point. But the embarrassment of the executive unravelling over cuts would be a powerful thing that the government would want to avoid. I do take your point though that London would be inclined to say not our problem for the reasons you outline.

    Michael,

    I agree with you. Can’t really add much to what you’ve said. An example of how ideology, class hatred of the working class, and the sadistic desire to dish out punishment is driving this government.

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