Sunday, 12 September 2010

Who

... could get involved in a spat with former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith and come off looking more duplicitous, ideologically blinkered, vicious, idiotic and dishonest?

The answer is George Osrborne:
Secret plans to slash the welfare bill by £2.5bn for people who are disabled or too ill to work are being up drawn up by the chancellor, George Osborne, documents leaked to the Observer reveal.

Details of the plan, spelled out in a confidential letter from Osborne to Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, sparked a furious row as Labour accused the coalition government of targeting "the most vulnerable people in the country" with "shocking, arbitrary cuts".

The letter, written by Osborne on 19 June to Duncan Smith and circulated to David Cameron and Nick Clegg, will fuel mounting concerns that the government's assault on spending – and particularly Osborne's determination to slash the cost of welfare – will hit those on the lowest incomes the hardest.

Despite official insistence that no decisions have yet been made on where the axe will fall, Osborne stated in the letter – written three days before his emergency budget – that agreement had already been reached to impose deep cuts on the budget for employment and support allowance (ESA) – the successor to incapacity benefit. ESA is paid to those judged unable to work because of illness or disability.

Osborne told Duncan Smith: "Given the pressure on overall public spending in the coming period, we will need to continue developing further options to reform the benefits as part of the spending review process in order to deliver further savings, greater simplicity and stronger work incentives.

"Reform to the employment support allowance is a particular priority and I am pleased that you, the prime minister and I have agreed to press ahead with reforms to the ESA as part of the spending review that will deliver net savings of at least £2.5bn by 2014-15."

In a further extraordinary development, sources within Duncan Smith's department turned their fire on the Treasury, insisting nothing had been decided and suggesting Osborne's department may have leaked the letter to bounce them into accepting the plan. (1)
This is on top of Osborne's recently announced intention (2) to hack a further four billion off the welfare budget, following the demented right wing thinking that people on the dole are basically workshy, and will get a job if their cushy tax payer sponsored lifestyle is curtailed; rather than simply remaining trapped in poverty, resorting to crime, prostitution or alcoholic oblivion instead.

That unemployment is running at 8% and the economy is still teetering on the verge of collapse seems to have eluded Osborne, which is a concern given he is Chancellor of the Exchequer. The jobs - so he thinks - are out there. His measures might lead to more work for social workers, I suppose, as they struggle to clear up the mess of his economic vandalism.
1 - "George Osborne's secret plan to slash sickness benefits," by Toby Helm. Published in The Guardian, 11th of September, 2010. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/sep/11/george-osborne-slash-sickness-benefits)
2 - "George Osborne faces benefit cuts backlash," by Hélène Mulholland and Patrick Wintour. Published in the Guardian, 10th of September, 2010. (
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/sep/10/george-osborne-benefit-cuts)

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