Saturday, May 11, 2013

Hitting the poorest places hardest

Research from Sheffield Hallam University

Last month saw the publication of a report from the University into the impact of Welfare Reform across the country entitled Hitting the poorest places hardest 

You almost don't need to read any further than the title to get the general idea. 

They have carried out extensive research and I have reproduced their key findings below

When the present welfare reforms have come into full effect they will take nearly £19bn a year out of the economy. This is equivalent to around £470 a year for every adult of working age in the country. 

The biggest financial losses arise from reforms to incapacity benefits (£4.3bn a year),changes to Tax Credits (£3.6bn a year) and the 1 per cent up-rating of most working-age benefits (£3.4bn a year).

The Housing Benefit reforms result in more modest losses – an estimated £490m a year arising from the ‘bedroom tax’ for example – but for the households affected the sums are nevertheless still large.

Some households and individuals, notably sickness and disability claimants, will be hit by several different elements of the reforms.

The financial impact of the reforms, however, varies greatly across the country. At theextremes, the worst-hit local authority areas lose around four times as much, per adult of working age, as the authorities least affected by the reforms.

Britain’s older industrial areas, a number of seaside towns and some London boroughs are hit hardest. Much of the south and east of England outside London escapes comparatively lightly.

Blackpool, in North West England, is hit worst of all – an estimated loss of more than £900 a year for every adult of working age in the town.

The three regions of northern England alone can expect to lose around £5.2bn a year in benefit income.

As a general rule, the more deprived the local authority, the greater the financial hit.

A key effect of the welfare reforms will be to widen the gaps in prosperity between the best and worst local economies across Britain.

The bold type is mine. I find it difficult to comprehend that any Government could be so wicked as to slash and burn the economies of the north of England in this way. Indeed I have been wracking my historian's brain and cannot think of anyone since William the Conqueror with his harrying of the north who has made such a broad attack on our communities (although of course Maggie did her best)

Let's not be divisive about this though - or play the victim card that the Tories accuse us of in the north. We need to remember the industrial Midlands and the other places the report mentions too, the poorer London Boroughs, South Wales and Glasgow.  

Here is the top ten according to how much they have lost per adult of working age in the population

1. Blackpool           £ 910
2. Westminster      £ 820
3. Knowsley          £ 800
4. Merthyr Tydfil   £720
5. Middlesbrough   £720 
6. Hartlepool         £710
7. Torbay             £700 
8. Liverpool          £700 
9. Blaenau Gwent   £700 
10. Neath Port Talbot £700

Look at Blackpool. Tory MP Paul Maynard is going to have some explaining to do come the next General Election.  

Two of the top ten are on Merseyside, two on Teesside, three in south Wales. 

And remember, these are only the cuts in social security. I wait with trepidation for a report showing these figures combined with cuts in Local Government budgets to show just how much of an officially sanctioned kicking our people are being singled out for. 

And I keep coming back to the same fact; you could just about expect this sort of thing from the Conservatives, it is what they do - wage war on the poor and people with regional accents, anyone who wears trackies or went to a state school.... But what the hell are the Liberal Democrats doing giving them the lifeline they need to carry it out? I don't know whether Nick Clegg ever visits the university in his constituency but this will be one report of theirs he might find uncomfortable reading. 

Here are the bottom 10 districts for completeness. In these areas the reforms have had much less of a financial impact.

Chiltern           £270
South Bucks    £260
Guildford         £260
South Northamptonshire £260
South Oxfordshire      £260
Rutland               £260
Wokingham         £250
Cambridge          £250
Hart                   £240
City of London   £180 

I didn't know where Hart was either, so I looked it up, it is always useful to know where the beneficiaries are whilst you are getting the crumbs.

This is what is says on their council website
"Our picturesque area of gentle rolling wooded countryside lies in the north-east corner of Hampshire and takes its name from the little River Hart which flows through its centre." 

So that's all very nice. 

And it is represented in Parliament by Gerald Howarth, the recently elected chairman of the Thatcherite Conservative Way Forward 

And you don't need me to tell you what their guiding principles are, do you?

Like the title of the Sheffield Hallam report itself, this tells you all you need to know about how this Government is setting its policies and who they are for. 

Conservatives and Liberal Democrats:  
Hitting the poorest places hardest and buttressing the richest places best

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