Welfare Reform - 10 July topic at Southwark Assembly

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Monday 17 June 2013 2.48pm
Another Council Assembly - the full meeting of all the ward councillors in Southwark - will take place on 10 July, at Walworth Academy on Shorncliffe Road (the street opposite Tesco's on the Old Kent Road) .

The debate for the assembly will be on Welfare Reform.

At the main business meeting, the councillors debate an issue that's of particular relevance to people across the borough - in this case welfare reform - and to ensure that they have a strong sense of 'what the people think' we compile a dossier of 'community views' which is circulated to all councillors in advance of the meeting.

As part of this process, the SE1 Forum has proved to be a rich source of comment and opinion, and I am asking for these now - for example:

- are you aware of any help (advice) offered by other agencies, in Southwark or elsewhere? How easy was it to get this information?


You can post your views here and they'll be captured that way, or you can email them to democracy@southwark.gov.uk

When the process is complete we'll share a link to the final dossier of community views. Here's what the most recent one looked like, for the debate on Crime and Anti-social behaviour on 27 March:
http://moderngov.southwarksites.com/documents/s36594/Community%20Views%20on%20the%20Theme%20-%20Crime%20and%20Anti-social%20behaviour.pdf
Monday 17 June 2013 10.27pm
Helen,

I am a taxpayer and council tax payer living in SE1.

Here's my view, which is essentially the same as every other person I know who lives or works in SE1 ( all of whom are in work, or who are supported by a partner in work).

I support the coalition government's reforms of welfare - but these reforms barely scratch the suface of the welfare monster originally intended as a safety net for working people, not a way of living. Work already done to lift the tax threshold eventually to £10k is progress.

The London living wage should also be introduced in tandem with these reforms to make business share some of the burden from the taxpayer. HMRC also needs to toughen up on some cosy relationships with big business to make them pay their tax.

The British State has created an entire class of people who are utterly dependent upon the state - the incentives to compel people to work and pay their way in society are not strong enough. Southwark Council's own data shows us that the majority of residents in social housing are out of work. As long as their rent is paid for by the Council via housing benefit, this situation will not change. It's called human nature.

Southwark also have one of the UK's worst and shameful records of Council Tax collection - I would suggest that as a Council you focus your efforts on improving this dire record. Recently, the BBC reported that 4 Southwark Councillors had received summons for late payment of Southwark Council Tax.

Welfare also means that money is diverted from productive, wealth-creating, growth-creating activities such as building housing, schools and transport improvements. Such projects will help people back into work - a virtuous circle. Housing benefit also ends up in the pockets of private landlords, when the state should be spening this money on housing - a crazy situation.

The way in which Council Housing is allocated also distorts the socio-economic make up of this borough into two extremes - the very rich who can afford to live in luxury riverside developments granted consent by Southwark Council with zero on-site affordable housing - contrasting with Council housing which is only allocated to the poorest.There is no space for anyone in the middle.

Do not underestimate the widespread grievance of working taxpayers who resent paying for the benefits of those who live off the state at our expense. We are in the majority. If this is a democratic process, you need to listen to us as well.

This Borough desperately needs people who are in work and who contribute to our society through local and national taxation. The balance in Southwark is distorted too far over to the welfare-dependent.

Unfortunately, I strongly suspect that a number of our local politicians see fit to maintain this welfare-state status quo as this is a reliable reserve of welfare-dependent voters who are being manipulated into seeing any form of welfare reform as an attack on them.

Anyone living in Southwark of working age has easy access to the UK's largest and most thriving jobs market. The unemployed have access to free training.

Meanwhile, hard-working people commute for hours to jobs in London. People who cannot afford to live in Southwark.
Tuesday 18 June 2013 9.41am
Floodplain wrote:
Helen,
I am a taxpayer and council tax payer living in SE1.

Here's my view, which is essentially the same as every other person I know who lives or works in SE1 ( all of whom are in work, or who are supported by a partner in work).

I support the coalition government's reforms of welfare - but these reforms barely scratch the suface of the welfare monster originally intended as a safety net for working people, not a way of living. Work already done to lift the tax threshold eventually to £10k is progress.

The London living wage should also be introduced in tandem with these reforms to make business share some of the burden from the taxpayer. HMRC also needs to toughen up on some cosy relationships with big business to make them pay their tax.

The British State has created an entire class of people who are utterly dependent upon the state - the incentives to compel people to work and pay their way in society are not strong enough. Southwark Council's own data shows us that the majority of residents in social housing are out of work. As long as their rent is paid for by the Council via housing benefit, this situation will not change. It's called human nature.

Southwark also have one of the UK's worst and shameful records of Council Tax collection - I would suggest that as a Council you focus your efforts on improving this dire record. Recently, the BBC reported that 4 Southwark Councillors had received summons for late payment of Southwark Council Tax.

Welfare also means that money is diverted from productive, wealth-creating, growth-creating activities such as building housing, schools and transport improvements. Such projects will help people back into work - a virtuous circle. Housing benefit also ends up in the pockets of private landlords, when the state should be spening this money on housing - a crazy situation.

The way in which Council Housing is allocated also distorts the socio-economic make up of this borough into two extremes - the very rich who can afford to live in luxury riverside developments granted consent by Southwark Council with zero on-site affordable housing - contrasting with Council housing which is only allocated to the poorest.There is no space for anyone in the middle.

Do not underestimate the widespread grievance of working taxpayers who resent paying for the benefits of those who live off the state at our expense. We are in the majority. If this is a democratic process, you need to listen to us as well.

This Borough desperately needs people who are in work and who contribute to our society through local and national taxation. The balance in Southwark is distorted too far over to the welfare-dependent.

Unfortunately, I strongly suspect that a number of our local politicians see fit to maintain this welfare-state status quo as this is a reliable reserve of welfare-dependent voters who are being manipulated into seeing any form of welfare reform as an attack on them.

Anyone living in Southwark of working age has easy access to the UK's largest and most thriving jobs market. The unemployed have access to free training.

Meanwhile, hard-working people commute for hours to jobs in London. People who cannot afford to live in Southwark.

Interesting,do you have a link to that data?

It's just that you once said that the majority of residents in social housing were on benefits and it was pointed out that most people on benefits are in work.
Tuesday 18 June 2013 1.26pm
The Southwark Key Housing Data report for 2012-13 contains some statistics from 2008 for this on page 8. You can download it from here

The figures break down by household, rather than resident. They show that, in 2008, 65% of households renting from the Council were not currently in employment and 51% renting other social housing were. Overall, 62% of households in social housing were not currently in paid work.

Note that these figures include homes where everyone is retired and that households containing working age people tend to have more residents than retired households (ie often two people and, sometimes, children). Also, things might have changed since 2008.

These data neither support nor disprove Floodplain's assertion. Presumably that refers to some other sets of Council data. I'll look forward to seeing them.

BTW Floodplain - in this country, it's called 'social security' not 'welfare'. If you read about the circumstances in which it was introduced (by a Liberal government), you'll understand why. 'Welfare' is the US name for the system of support for the poorest that Ayn Rand lived off in her later years.
Tuesday 18 June 2013 2.07pm
Sigh, here we go again...

Source, Institute for fiscal studies:
http://www.ifs.org.uk/budgets/gb2013/GB2013_Ch8.pdf

Total expenditure on benefits and tax credits directed at those of working age is forecast to be £91.2 billion in 2013–14. Table 8.2 lays out where that money will go. Perhaps most striking is the relatively small proportion of working-age welfare expenditure accounted for by benefits available only to those out of work. Together, Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Incapacity Benefit (IB) and Income Support(IS) cost under £20 billion, or less than a fifth of total working-age expenditure, though workless families are also entitled to benefits that are also received by those in work, such as tax credits, Housing Benefit, Child Benefit and Disability Living Allowance.
Because there are many more in-work than out-of-work families, of the £29 billion spent on tax credits in 2010–11, over £20 billion went to working families.

Just to inject a fact or two...

My own take:

There aren't enough jobs.
Jobs don't pay enough to afford living costs in the UK - that goes double for London.
There is a national housing crisis caused by chronic undersupply and multiple housing booms, happily stoked by governments of all stripes.
The social security spend always goes up in a recession, and Conservative governments always try to use these figures as normative to build sympathy for their argument - i.e. the infantile Shirkers vs Strivers talking point.

While I salute those who are trying to engage with these issues, these questions (IMHO) go far beyond the scope of local councillors. If I have a point of view to feed into the meeting, it's that our local councillors should do what they can to ensure the public is informed. Otherwise you just get the same recycled ignorance that passes for debate on this issue.

Good luck!
Tuesday 18 June 2013 3.18pm
Here's some really back of an envelope numbers to think about...they're not precise but give an idea of the issues our current generation (and our elected politicians) are up against.

UK population.....about 61 million
Working population....around 29 million (some full some part-time)
Public sector employees...about 5.5 million

Average age of people entering the workforce....20ish
Average age of people leaving the workforce....65 going up towards 70 over the next few years

Now these are all very rough figures and some will no doubt take exception to them but its the overall concept that I'm thinking about

Roughly half the population supports the other half who are young, old, unable to work or unable to find work.

On average (if we are lucky) we will be able to work for some 40 maybe 50 years (looking ahead). But out of our lifetime we will also have some 40 or so years as a child/young person or as an older member of our society which we need to provide for.

So we need to pay for ourselves for roughly half our lives out of work from the time we are in work. And we have to pay for all those who for whatever reason are unable to work during their 50ish years (or part thereof) of working years life.

Now whilst public sector emplyees do indeed pay tax and spend in the community this is recycling money as it all comes from taxes in the first place.

On top of this there is a tax contribution from other sectors....VAT Corporation Tax and the like.

But given the general demographics its seems undoubtably clear from these numbers that we need a greater proportion of our workforce to be employed during the years they can be and any failure to find, create and secure good long term jobs is not only a disaster for the individuals concerned but for the nation's finances and therefore the well being of everyone.

No answers but just saying.
Tuesday 18 June 2013 3.40pm
Once again, point well made Mikec. I'm really tired of hearing the same tired old arguments being trotted out about them and us (and yes Floodplain that includes you). I am more than happy to support people out of work through taxation. People I know and love have needed the support of the state at various times and I want that safety net to continue for other people in need. People on benefits (and esp people with disabilities) are easy targets and divisive 'them' and 'us' language does no-one any favours. There is enormous wealth in this country: how about we share it around a bit more fairly? As for local council matters, I would like to see the Council document the real day-to-day impact of 'benefit reform' on the lives of people in Southwark and report that back to Government.
Tuesday 18 June 2013 3.51pm
Well said bdim.
Wednesday 19 June 2013 10.29am
Hi there, not wanting to come down on either side of this argument, I thought I would just mention that there are many people for whom the cost of living is just going up and up whilst cut-backs to benefits are affecting many already on the margin....for instance people who are full-time carers, http://www.southwark.gov.uk/news/article/1277/southwark_council_highlights_vital_work_of_local_carers

So again I am asking, whether in your opinion there is enough information out there, accessible to you?
Wednesday 19 June 2013 12.48pm
If you mean infomation on the impact these cuts are having then all I can say is that without my addiction to talk radio ie: LBC radio 5 etc,I wouldn't have half a clue about the plight of those undergoing these reforms,you get to listen to some very upsetting calls and suicidal callers.
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