(28) Now how long have we been hearing 'No ifs, No Buts', or the 'Net is closing in' or even 'It's not if you're caught, it's when'? -well it's been for quite some time folks
There has been a fair amount of work on the eradication of fraud and error already. In 2001 there were changes to social security fraud legislation and in 2004 new measures saw the abolition of 'benefit periods' within Housing & Council Tax Benefit claims. The idea was to cut down on the needs for claimants to fill in a new form and make a new claim each year; thus providing council's with less of an administrative burden, - it would also free up money for extra fraud detection.
The very nature of benefit offences was also made more 'technical' with amendments to the wording in section 111 and 112 Social Security Administration Act offences, in short you could end up being prosecuted for simply failing to promptly inform the authorities of a change in your circumstances.
Council's were also paid a subsidy which was linked to the number of prosecutions or fraud files opened.
Have these measures been successful?
Should we be looking more at 'official' error than 'fraud'?
Oh no Johnybegood, we'll not be leaving out the billions of unclaimed benefits which government doesn't want people to know about, it would be a real minus in their already dubious 'savings' figures if we had every single claimant who was entitled to something actually claiming it; - thanks for the link by the way!
"Jobcentre Plus has made good progress in a number of areas about which I have expressed concern in the past; but there are still problems and the level of error in these payments is still material. This has led me to qualify my opinion. Jobcentre Plus should continue work to address my concerns and I will continue to monitor progress."
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, 11 July 2011
The NAO have looked into the social fund and uncovered £114 million in erroneously overpaid social fund payments alone with an estimated £21.5 million 'paid in error' winter fuel payments.
Lost documents and a failure to follow procedure are put down as the causes.
"THE GOVERNMENT BODY that provides expenses support to low income people, including the Jobcentre, has had its accounts qualified for the eighth year running.
The National Audit Office has qualified the social fund White Paper Account for material errors in providing budgeting loans, crisis loans and community care grants and in funeral expense payments, with an estimated £114m in overpayments.
Government reneges on NAO-BBC pledge The main causes of irregularity in the fund's accounts come from the JobCentre Plus' "inability to provide the documentation needed to support cases selected for audit, and a failure to comply with regulations when making awards".
Controller and auditor general Amyas Morse said that JobCentre Plus had made "good progress" but problems still existed that were material. "Jobcentre Plus should continue work to address my concerns and I will continue to monitor progress," stated Morse. Jobcentre Plus believes that the continued high instance of error is due to the ongoing reorganisation of its process centre network, and that the inability to locate all documentation results from the large amounts of paperwork that have been moved between its offices during the year.
For the first time, the NAO has also qualified its opinion on cold weather payments due to errors, to the tune of £21.5m: a 5% error compared to none a year earlier. Morse has removed his audit qualification for Sure Start maternity grants."
So with social funds it's more error than fraud then; not really what the papers say is it? Perhaps, we better look at how the rest of the DWP and HMRC do on official error? - I've got a feeling it won't be all fraud somehow.
(30) Oh dear, things really aren't much better in the world of Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, the department which pays out Working & Child Tax Credits as well as Child Benefit payments.
Looks like there's a bit of trouble with the people who tell us 'Tax needn't be Taxing'; - I wonder how many of us would agree?
Yet another select committee's been hard at work, condemning the work of yet another government department. Here's what they say....
Serious dissatisfaction with HMRC, says Treasury Committee
30 July 2011 .
The Treasury Committee's report into the administration and effectiveness of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has found there is considerable dissatisfaction among the public and tax professionals with the service provided by the Department. The committee is concerned that if this continues it may undermine respect for the tax system.
Amongst the select committee's findings; they say:
Following an inquiry by the Treasury Sub-Committee, the report identified serious concerns in a number of areas, including:
Unacceptable difficulties contacting HMRC by phone during peak periods
Endemic delays in responding to post
An increasing focus on online communication that may exclude those without reliable internet access [/i]
The committee rejected many of the HMRC's reasons for poor delivery of services and said:
"We do not accept the Department's explanation that these problems are primarily the result of reconciling of multiple PAYE tax years at once."
HMRC's claim that £1.1bn worth of savings had been made without negatively affecting performance "lacked credibility", the MPs added. The report said there was "near unanimity among our witnesses" that the decline in service standards was linked to cuts in budgets.
The MPs also called on the government to refrain from making further reductions in HMRC's budget.
Now I wonder how HMRC will sharpen up its act in time for the Universal Credit? - I wouldn't hold your breath. I also think we should 'factor in' the cost of rectifying all this official error; - I've not finished with the calculator - oh no.
We'll return to more sums shortly and have a look at the cost of Fraud v Official Error; and we'll have a look at the cost of rectifying it all too. Just remember how all of this bites into the cost savings which government hopes to make, but won't.
(31) looking at the Government's approach to eradicating fraud and error, you'll get where Lord Freud's coming from in his ministerial introduction.
Here's what the Lord says in the 2010 DWP/HMRC Fraud & Error report
"The Government has already made clear that it will consider how to minimise losses due to tax evasion. This document sets out a radical new approach for addressing welfare fraud and error, which now costs the taxpayer £5.2 billion pounds every year, or £165 every second. Many individual benefits lose over 5% of their expenditure to fraud and error."
"These changes are not just about saving taxpayers’ money. They are also about being fair. Getting welfare payments wrong hits the most vulnerable hardest, leaving them without money they are entitled to or facing demands for repayment of money they thought was rightfully theirs. Fraud and error also undermines the public’s confidence in the entire benefits system: over eight in ten people believe ‘large numbers falsely claim benefits’."
Unsurprisingly, it seems to be more finger wagging at the claimant again, rather than those who administer the benefits, those who set the budgets and make the rules.
Is government listening to 8 out 10 Daily Express, Daily Mail, and the Sun readers, rather than objectively studying the evidence it has at its disposal?
So let's have a look at those figures then
To put things in perspective, at £5.2 billion pounds DWP/HMRC fraud & error costs each person in the UK approximately £86 per year.
Actual fraud (evidenced based rather than 'assumed) is put at £1 billion for DWP claims and £0.6 billion for HMRC claims; around £26 per person in the UK a year.
Official & Customer error is put at £3.6 billion pounds; around £60 per person in the UK per year.
The Total benefit bill is £190 billion pounds; costing each person in the UK around £3166 per year.
The UK state pension and retirement related benefits account for around 42% of the overall benefit bill. That's around £79 billion or £1316 per person in the UK per year.
No- one is saying benefit fraud is right, but it is a total misrepresentation in the tabloids to blame the high benefit bill on fraudster's when they account for less that 1% of the entire benefit bill.
What's even more worrying is how much effort and money will be expended by government in its attempt to erradicate fraud and error. Not surprisingly, it involves even more private contractors.
Well Lord Freud puts this at £425 million over the next 'four years'; to achieve a £1.4 billion pound reduction in fraud & error by 2014/15. His reports quantifies certain elements of expenditure such as the recruitment of 200 fraud investigators (which at say £26K per year will amount to over £20 million over 4 years), but beyond this the detail is all a bit vague. Now we know from his ministerial introduction which way he's heading, his words makes it very clear...
Tackling fraud and error in the benefit and tax credits systems
• introduce a new mobile regional fraud taskforce to investigate each and every claim in high fraud areas, to increase the certainty of detection;
• address the weakness of the current penalty regime by abolishing cautions as a penalty for fraud, increasing asset seizures, and introducing far tougher one-strike and two-strike penalties, and a new three-strike rule;
• clean up nearly 2 million claims to remove error; and
• increase the frontline support provided by our Big Society partners to help educate and support our customers to get it right first time.
These proposals – which together represent an additional £425m funding to tackle fraud and error over the next four years – will deliver a £1.4 billion reduction in fraud and error by 2014/15. The simplification of the benefits system as set out in our 21st Century Welfare proposals will deliver further significant savings beyond 2014/15. They constitute the first step in our commitment to tackling all forms of fraud.
Isn't this just a focus on 'catching' more 'benefit thieves'? Other than the mention of 'cleaning up' 2 million claims, the entire report focuses on claimant related wrongdoing.
He's out to catch more criminals, there's very little mention of how the DWP, LA's, or HMRC will be given extra revenue to improve upon standards. Remember, the previous mention of select committee's who said departments needed to improve? - well, read Freud's reports and tell me how where it mentions more cash for these departments; - because I can't see any mention.
Freud gives it away with a mention of government's 'Big Society partners', his report mentions more 'payment by result contracts'. Now I wonder what kind of contractors he has in mind?
(33) Well it's not hard to detect one of the security minded contractors; - they've clearly got the benefit fraud bounty in mind
It's Big Society G4S again; - they're very distinctive!
Here's what G4S David Taylor-Smith Regional CEO (UK & Africa) has to say in his impressive 'Securing your world' glossy literature....
Page 14 Welfare to Work
Case Study: DWP Work Programme Wins
The Cotswold Group
"Fraud UK market leader in surveillance, fraud analytics, intelligence and investigations services. Gives intelligence-based fraud investigations capability for large scale opportunities within UK central and local government involving fraud Case"
Here's how they summarise the bounty potential...
2010 DWP spend -£159Bn
UK worklessness-5.5m people (£40bn PA in benefits)
G4S awarded 3 Work Programme Area contracts:
Most successful market entrant
5+2 year contracts -starting Jun 2011
Estimated £267m total contract revenue
Helping 150,000 long term unemployed
Prime contract model
Payment based on results
Significant future opportunities
G4S DWP estates contract
Workless families -Q3 2011 (£5m)
Benefit fraudUK market leader in surveillance, fraud
So whilst the rest of us reel in savage cuts, firms like G4S sweep up on lucrative welfare to work contractors worth up to £14,000 per person, not content with their security and prison work; they now have their sights set on benefit busting bounty everytime they catch a new 'fraudster'!
These reforms are good news for firms like G4S aren't they?
(34) What do the current benefit fraud investigators think?
They actually take less of a hard line as they realise what some claimants are up against. They say the majority are not motivated by greed and will be pushed into debt by the imposition of fines.
Here's what DWP investigators say in a Guardian article...
"Within the Tunbridge Wells office there is a lot of talk about the cases over recent years that have caught the public's attention – the pensioner who tap-danced on Britain's Got Talent while claiming disability allowance, the lap dancer who was receiving benefits on the grounds that she was too depressed to work, a football referee who claimed he was blind to increase his benefit package. But there is also a recognition that these are the exceptional cases. Staff admit that a large proportion of people who commit fraud are not motivated by greed, but do it because they are struggling.
"Thirty to 40% say they did it because of a drug dependency, alcohol, debt, money for Christmas," Smith says. "If we impose an administrative penalty that will push them further into debt." Where they can, officials will just request repayments, and recommend that between £3 and £13.95 is deducted from the weekly benefits payment. When benefits are set so low, this will push them into poverty. Smith shrugs and looks sad."
I hate to say it, but the more I read of these reforms; the more convinced I am they'll be an absolute disaster.
We'll have bounty hunters who know nothing of the benefit system out to catch people for making mistakes on their claims amidst all of this change. They'll put 2 and 2 together and come up with 10. Government has yet to tell us how much these contractors will be paid.
The bounty hunters will probably rake in more 'thieves', but it'll be left to an under-resourced DWP and HMRC to wade through all the bureaucracy of imposing sanction after sanction, it will be a nightmare which costs way more than £425 million pounds.
People will be sanctioned and labeled as criminals for making mistakes.
(35) So with all this talk of fakers, thieves, the lazy, the idle, the workless scroungers and vast money being spent on getting people OFF benefits, what about those who should be claiming them, but aren't?
Let's hear the views of those that know a thing or too about claiming benefits
In February of last year, Citizens Advice challenged Government over £16 billion worth of unclaimed benefits which went untouched every year
Charities challenge government over £16bn unclaimed benefits
3 February 2010
"Twenty-seven leading charities* are today calling on the government to set ambitious targets to improve take-up of welfare benefits and tax credits, highlighting more than £16 billion in means-tested benefits and tax credits that currently goes unclaimed every year."
"In a campaign launched today, spearheaded by Citizens Advice, they have written to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Yvette Cooper saying more needs to be done to ensure that money earmarked for children, families and pensioners in greatest need reaches those for whom it is intended.
The charities point to glaring examples where take-up is falling far short. Latest official figures show that:
•as many as four out of five low paid workers without children (1.2million households) miss out on tax credits worth at least £38 per week - a total of £1.9 billion
•as many as half of all working households entitled to housing benefit (worth an average £37.60 per week) do not claim it – that’s up to half a million households.
Other benefits showing signs of significant under-claiming include council tax benefit and pension credit. Up to three million households are missing out on an average £13 a week in council tax benefit, while as many as 1.7 million pensioners are missing out on an average of £31 a week in pension credit.
Take-up of housing benefit and council tax benefit have both fallen over the last decade, while take-up of child tax credit is far lower in London than in other parts of the country, and generally 10% lower among families from minority ethnic backgrounds.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive David Harker said:
“The government has made a serious commitment to eradicate child and pensioner poverty, and to help the working poor, yet up to £10.5 billion of means tested benefits and £6.2 billion of tax credits remain unpaid each year. This adds up to millions of people in dire need missing out on the help they should be getting to make ends meet. This is bad news at any time, but it’s especially worrying when so many are still feeling the impact of the recent recession. It’s absolutely vital that the government sets ambitious take-up targets for means-tested benefits and tax credits as an importantstep towards tackling poverty and providing adequate incomes for all.”
He went on:
“The benefits and tax credits system is extremely complicated and the reasons people don’t claim what they’re due are complex, ranging from simply not knowing about the benefit concerned, to being put off by what can sometimes seem a very daunting process, to feeling that the amount they gain will be negligible. But all too often they are missing out on substantial amounts of extra cash that could make all the difference between getting by or going under.
“We would urge people to get a free, confidential and independent benefit check at their local CAB. Our advisers deal with 8,000 new benefit enquiries every working day and can help people navigate the complexities of the system, identifying all the extra help they should be getting and assisting with the claims process. Along with other concerned charities we are now challenging the government to invest the same amount of energy and effort into ensuring people get what they are entitled to as they put into cracking down on benefit fraud.”
It's a point well made by Citizens Advice Bureau and one shared by others too.
The organisations listed below support the following statement from Citizens Advice:
'We call on the Government to set ambitious take-up targets for means-tested benefits and tax credits, as an importantstep towards tackling poverty and providing adequate incomes for all.'
•AdviceUK •Age Concern and Help the Aged •Barnardos •Church action on poverty •Citizens Advice Scotland •Community Links •Child Poverty Action Group •Crisis •Depaul UK •DIAL •Disability Alliance •Gingerbread •Housing Justice •Joseph Rowntree •Leonard Cheshire •Macmillan •MIND •RNIB •RNID •Save the Children •The Equality Trust •The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group •The Royal British Legion •Toynbee Hall •TUC •Youth Access
A lot has happened since February 2010, a change in government has led to savage cuts in advice sector funding. Agencies are fighting for their survival; thus they are less able to conduct the hugely sucessful take up campaigns which they have in the past.
Agencies are spending more time helping those who have to appeal for re-instatement of benefits which should never be taken away in the first place. But government is very unwise to think agencies will simply give up on take up campaigns; - we won't. We're here to advise people on what they are entitled to, not what government would like to pay in welfare.
(36) And now for something quite shocking;- it's terrifically sad, but illustrates the true cost of getting welfare reform wrong. The true cost will be people's lives and a great deal of distress for those involved. This could be quite upsetting to some of you.
It's chilling isn't it, as you read this imagine how the relatives feel?
Sadly, there's a real story behind this, it appeared in the Guardian and my attention was drawn to it on the Rightsnet website. This post is out of complete respect for Larry Newman's relatives who promised they would pursue what they see as an injustice related to an ATOS medical assessment carried out only a few months before he sadly died.
Atos case study: Larry Newman
"Larry Newman was assessed by an Atos staff member and awarded zero points. To qualify for sickness benefit he needed. He died from lung problems soon after"
Amelia Gentleman guardian.co.uk, Sunday 24 July 2011
Larry Newman attended a work capability assessment in March 2010, when a degenerative lung condition made it impossible for him to go on working in the wood veneer showroom where he had spent much of his career. His weight had dropped from 10 to seven stone, and he had trouble breathing and walking.
The Atos staff member who carried out the medical test awarded him zero points. To qualify for employment and support allowance, the new sickness benefit, he needed to score 15 points, and in July he received a letter from jobcentre officials stating that he was not eligible for the benefit (worth around £95 a week) and would be fit to return to work within three months.
He was devastated by the decision, and dismayed to note a number of inaccuracies in the report that accompanied the letter. He decided to appeal against the decision, but before three months was up he died from his lung problems.
His widow, Sylvia Newman, recalls that one of the last things he said to her, as doctors put him on a ventilator, was: "It's a good job I'm fit for work." He was trying to make her laugh, she says, but it was also a reflection of how upset he had been by the conclusion of the medical test.
"He was so hurt by it. It made him so upset that they thought he was lying, and he wasn't," she says. "I think it added to him just giving up."
Mrs Newman has lodged an official complaint, with the help of Citizens Advice staff, highlighting 12 inconsistencies in the report by the Atos assesser. It said her husband had been unaccompanied. "I was with him, although in his medical report they claimed that I was in the waiting room," she says. The report says that Mr Newman's pulse was fine, that he had no scars on his chest and that he managed to climb on to the examination bed without any problem. Mrs Newman says that her husband did not get on to the examination bed, that his pulse was not taken, and that the assesser did not look at his chest, otherwise he would have seen scars.
"He never touched Larry, he never took his pulse.There were endless inaccuracies," she added, describing the report as "make-believe".
They were both dismayed by the assesser's casual attitude. "At one stage, he took a phone call. We were trying not to listen, but it seemed to be a personal call," she says. "It went on for a few minutes. It wasn't very professional."
Although they had given written permission for Atos to seek written medical reports from Mr Newman's hospital consultant, who had diagnosed extrinsic allergic alveolitis, the assesser said that he didn't have a copy of his records or the questionnaire that he had filled in when he applied for the benefit.
"They could have just got a report from the hospital to see how sick he was. It seemed a pointless exercise," Mrs Newman says, profoundly distressed as she recounts what happened.
She is angry at the treatment she and her husband received from Atos staff.
"They are charging the government a lot of money for these assessments, and I know that other very sick people have been treated as Larry was. I promised him I would pursue it. It wasn't a fortune, and we were struggling to survive. It wasn't anything he wasn't entitled to."
An Atos official said: "We are sorry to hear that Mr Newman has died. We cannot comment on individual cases. We do expect the highest standards from our staff. All complaints are taken very seriously and thoroughly investigated."
It's injustices like this which no one should need to contest, they take away the spirit of a humane and civil society. They also act as a chilling reminder to how severe the conditions of someone claiming ESA can be.
Thanks for posting the links to those articles Johnnybegood. I looked at them and was quite appalled at how much tragedy is being related to these assessments, it really is dreadful.
It's not nice to have to dwell on the grief of others, but it is very much the reality of the job. I will include these accounts into our Mylegal case studies as they are very powerful evidence of the need for change. Stay with this article as it leads up to a good look at whether these reforms will have any beneficial impact on anyone other than those who profit from it, or who are guided back into meaningful work with a beneficial effect upon their well being.
How on earth can any Government even contemplate pumping so much cash into the implemtation of these reforms;- whilst taking away all forms of legal help to those tangled up in so much complexity and blatant injustice?
(37) Now we look at where this could all go horribly wrong.
Tribunal statistics are already rocketing, but they could get much, much worse.
With an increase of the number of ESA & Incapacity Benefit appeals up by 167% from 2008/2009 to 2010/2011, we know there is an upward trend.
Will it get better?
No, of course it won't.
The appeals we have already heard about are just the start. By and large we can see by the first batch of ESA appeals that people are successfully appealing at the rate of around 27%. I illustrated this with my earlier post on the 1st August which detailed ESA determinations from October 2008 to August 2010 and broke down the 1,175,700 ESA claims for this period.
Now, we know government is intent on reviewing all incapacity claims, the historic record of Incapacity related claims show that they have remained at around 2.6 million every year from 1999 to the present. With only 261,800 confirmed at application (support and wrag groups), we know that there are a number of unsuccessful ESA applicants. These will either have accepted their decision, appealed and abandoned their appeal or have had their appeal found against them; they represent a number of applications who will have entered the dispute process.
The DWP do not distinguish between IB cases from those which go onto transfer to ESA under the conversion rules.
But what we can safely say is there will be around 2.1 million older IB to ESA cases and new ESA cases; all of which have appeal 'potential'.
The current rate of potential appellants is hard to pinpoint because the statistics do not register those who ask for a reconsideration. But we know from the number of sucessful appellants that it is around 27%.
This percentage rate is almost certainly set to rise as we deal with a number of claimants who have:
(1) Already been deemed 'incapacitated' under the older IB rules and feel strongly about arguing their case.
(2) Are likely to be incensed by adverse media labelling, which will compel them to appeal.
(3) Received no help from anyone who can properly advise them on the merits of their appeal. It is quite probable that disability charities will also advise their clients to appeal.
It is probable that the appeal rate will be around 35%. I would be surprised if the appeal rate has to be this high following the pilots of IB to ESA transfers carried out in Aberdeen and Burnley.
In these pilots, the results are somewhat different to the current trend:
Aberdeen Pilot Results
As of the 22nd March, 1,626 decisions on whether a customer’s claim qualifies for conversion to Employment and Support Allowance had been made. Of these:
• 526 individuals (32%) were found fit for work and so not entitled to Employment and Support Allowance
• 484 individuals (30%) were placed in the Support Group
• 616 individuals (38%) were placed in the Work Related Activity Group
How this will relate to conversion decisions elsewhere in the country remains to be seen. Remember how Government needs to keep its welfare to work recipient figure at 25% of all current incapacity decisions if it is to keep to its planned budget of £0.3 to £3 billion pounds.
So let's assume, government bows to the pressure to keep to targets and 35% of 2.1 million claimants appeal, how will that work out?
At a rate of 35% appealing 2.1 million decisions, 735,000 appeals would need to be heard by next parliament. Assuming they have a full four years (which they haven't as we are now in August) 183,750 appeals would need to be heard a year just to get through the IS/ESA conversion cases. This figure does not take account of new ESA (non-conversion) cases which are currently running at 197,400 Tribunal receipts per year.
But the figures don't stop there, because we need to re-consider what will happen as:
(A) More claimants get transfered to Jobseeker's Allowance
(B) The authorities work their way through sanctions and increased fraud related overpayments as well as alleged living together decisions.
(C) People are refused Disability Living Allowance, prior to the implementation of Personal Independance Allowance.
(D) Claimants are affected by 29 million decisions which form part of the remaining welfare reforms, they'll be plenty of unclear decisions, despite the new 'not so Universal Credit'.
Remember, we need to be looking at the total number of appeals, not just ESA, it's the potential number of all social security appeals which will become all important. Too many people are just considering the ESA increase; - it's just one of many benefits to come.
I'll be back with that calculator later, I said this was complicated and it is! We'll also be looking at cost and the TRUE WELFARE REFORM BILL.
(38) Oh it's back to the black board for some more sums, Perseverance is key!
We're getting there, bit by bit.
(A) So we've already dealt with a potential 183,750 number of IB to ESA transfer cases.
(B) On top of which we have the 'new claim ESA's, currently running at 197,400 in 2010/2011. This will fall as it represents the 'new claim (since October 2008) group and the accent will probably turn more towards the existing IB/ESA transfer cases. None the less we know from the previous figures that new claims run at around 27,000 to 30,000 new claims a month from the Oct 08 to August 2010 figures (These cannot have included any IB to ESA transfers). Let's use the 27K figure and assume people continue appealing at a rate of 27%; this works out at 87,480 appeals per year. (27K X 12 = 324000 - of which 27% is 87,480).
The 87,480 figure for new ESA's is added to the 183,750 ESA transfers; giving a potential 271, 230 total IB-ESA/ESA appeals per year.
Now add the other groups.
(C) Let's start with JSA appeals
2010/2011 figures show there were 47,000 (or 11%) were for Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) appeals. This represents and increase of 51% on the previous year.
Now we know a large number of ESA claimants are being found 'fit for work' or they abandon their claim. These run at around 900,000.
Now how many will have found work?
You'll have to ask George Osborne that one, I'm sure he'll have the figures.
But of the 900,000, a certain amount will go to the Jobcentre and do battle over getting them to accept they are 'fit, ready and able to work'. These are the basic JSA claim conditions; - you need to bear in mind these are people who had previously tried to claim on the grounds of incapacity. The Jobcentre will feel uneasy as accepting some of these claims because they are the people who are essentially saying to employer's 'we've got lots of people here who can work'. It will undoubtedly lead to claim related problems.
In addition to which there will be an increasing number of sanction related appeals as the number of JSA claims grow. There are currently around 1.4 million JSA claims according to certain sets of figures, others put it in excess of 2 million. A problem in the statistics is over the merging of IB/ESA cases onto JSA as these represent a 'transient' claim group. Let's go with with 1.4 million but add in around 300,000 which is likely to reflect job losses in the public sector. I'm being conservative with the figures and reckon 1.7 million is fairly representative. Assume 25% appeal. Bear in mind the fraud detection measures as well; these will lead to overpayment related appeals as people contest allegations they 'were working on the side' or 'not declaring a partner'.
Here's the maths:
1,700,000 JSA claims, 25% appeal = 425,000/4 years = 106,250
There's a potential 106,250 additional JSA appeals per year, many won't succeed, but it won't stop people appealing.
(D) Then DLA
83,600 or 20% were for Disability Living Allowance/Attendance Allowance (DLA/AA) appeals; - up by 11% on the previous year.
Now this could be a big one.
Why? Well, a lot of these will be tied to claimants who have had their long term IB claims transferred to ESA. These will flag up inconsistencies in the claim criteria for DLA due to the strict nature of the activity descriptors. Take a claimant on DLA higher rate mobility who has been on IB for years. The ESA assessment (in the current strict form) is likely to find the claimant to have no significant walking impairment to the degree that they are are entitled to the DLA mobility component. Similarly care awards are likely to be affected too. We all know what this means, yes it means - appeal!
Now the IFS claim figures for 2009/2010 show there were 3.1 million DLA claims. That's 3,100.000 and we all know how this is going to backfire. Remember, the implementation of Personal Independence Payment will put pressure on the DWP to 'clean up claims' prior to the implementation of PIP. It will throw up many retrospective entitlement appeal issues.
Also bear in mind how most DLA recipients will (if able to work) become a welfare to work recipient and remember how government has pledged up to £14,000 per person for difficult cases to the providers. There will be undoubted pressure to keep claims downs. That will mean appeals will go up. Let's assume up to an appeal rate of 20%; conservative again.
More sums, I love sums.
3,100,000 DLA claims, 20 % appeal = 620000 / 4 years = 155,000
So that could be another 155,000 DLA appeals per year into our already bursting point Tribunals
At this juncture, a bit of summarising wouldn't go amiss. [/u]
On the old scoreboard, so far we have:
155,000 DLA Appeals 106,250 JSA Appeals 271,230 ESA/IB Appeals 532,480 Sub Total
That's already over 1/2 million appeals per year!! But, remember we've got a fair few more to go yet, oh yes that calculator is far from finished with .
We've got the following to cover yet....
(E) Income Support
(F) Then Housing Benefit
(G) Then Child Benefit
(H) Then overpayment related appeals associated with an increased amount of fraud detection work. WTC/CB etc.
I've got a feeling the Tribunals Service will be needing a fair few more staff, more venues, more judges, more doctors, and more trees, yes trees - all that paper, they'll need a forest!
(39) Now you wouldn't call this dear old lady a scrounger would you?
Of course you wouldn't. But the media will.
Before we go back to more of my sums, we'll have a look at some interesting and recently released statistics produced in relation to what may on the surface appear to be an upward trend in Disability Alllowance Claims since 1999.
You can almost guess how the media will twist any increase in the number of Disability Living Allowance claimants; - it'll be more stories of more fakers and more scroungers.
But a closer look at the figures reveals how it's not as simple as any media headline will no doubt put it.
The headline statistics
The figures show that in 1999 there were 2,042.3 DLA claimants,
By the same quarterly (February) figures in 2004, the claimant count had risen to 2,559.2
By 2010 the total claimant count had risen to 3,182.0.
You can just hear the tabloids, can't you? - all those work shy fakers and scroungers?
Well no, it's not really like that at all.
Let's look at the evidence
Actually, the largest 'growth' in DLA figures are reflected in the following figures.
Claimants aged 80+ growth = 285%
Aged 75 - 79 = 146%
70 - 74 = 79%
There's a high total growth figure for young claimants too
For those aged 10 - 15 = 47%
Aged 16 to 19 = 92%
Now, it may come as a surprise to some of you that the lowest growth figure was for those aged 30 - 34 at - 1% (yes that's minus 1%)
I'd hazard a guess that the increase in home ownership can be attributed to people of working age actually, well,.....working, it's generally what people have to do to pay the mortgage!
You see, us welfare bods know a thing or two about people on benefits. Let's take someone aged 62, they become progresively arthritic and claim DLA. Now because they claim it before the age of 65, they can carry on claiming it after the age of 65. No one can claim DLA after they become 65, unless they already claim it.
So let's assume the dear old lady at the top of the page had claimed DLA before she became 65 and went on to live to a ripe old age. Good luck to her, we'd say. Her year on year entitlement would be reflected in each year's DLA figures. And so it is for many others who live a longer life; - to them their DLA can make all the difference.
"The rise in numbers claiming DLA are not all that they appear, and are being used by ministers in a potentially misleading way Today the DWP released an ad hoc statistical publication looking at claimants of Disability Living Allowance between 2002-03 and 2010-11. It showed that the numbers of people claiming has increased by 29%. Alongside this came a statement from Ian Duncan Smith decrying the fact that people had been left on benefits for years. The new benefit replacing DLA – the Personal Independence Payment – would end all that, he said.
But as with most government figures related to disability these days, one needs to look a bit closer.
Firstly, 6% of the 29% figure can be attributed to the maturing of the benefit. Introduced as it was in 1992, the rules regarding DLA eligibility state that, as long as someone claims DLA before age 65, they can continue to do so after 65. In 2002-03, the oldest DLA claimant would therefore be 75 – but by 2010-11, they would have reached 84, whilst thousands of septuagenarian DLA claimants follow on behind.
So some of this increase is due to disabled people getting older, claiming longer, and adding to the overall number of claimants. A further 7 % can be put down to demographic change – the population getting larger – ergo, a larger percentage of disabled people.
So the figure is already cut to 16%. We should also take into account the fact that, through advances in modern medicine, lots more disabled babies and children are surviving. This, like out ageing population, is something to be celebrated – even though it comes with a price tag. It seems, however, that whilst the government has accepted this fact in health and care spending, it has not done so in benefits.
Perhaps it is cynical to suggest that this ‘ad hoc’ statistical release about how much DLA is costing the tax payer has been timed to coincide with the piloting of the new PIP assessments. But one can’t help suspecting that, faced with growing concerns from the disability sector regarding the accuracy of the new PIP test, the government is trying to carry the plan through on a wave of populism, rather than measured scrutiny."
See the rest of the article on the Public Finance website..
Taking it a step further, I had a look at a comparrison with America. They've got a very different welfare system to ours, but none the less they pick up a similar trend. The rise in disability related claims can be related to an increase in the number of people of working age and a higher mortality rate; - it stands to reason really.
So perhaps there's a few more saints than scroungers then?
(40) Welfare Reforms bring with them a costly cold front
One in five households in fuel poverty as energy prices soar 5.5m homes spend over 10% of income on fuel, and bills will rise further to fund new power networks
" Living in a cold home has a devastating impact on people's physical and mental health," she said, while others pointed out that the NHS spent £859m each year treating cold-related illnesses due to poorly insulated homes.
Terry Macalister guardian.co.uk, Thursday 14 July 2011
"The Department of Energy and Climate Change statistics show one in five households in the UK are in fuel poverty. Figures show a huge rise in UK households in fuel poverty, even before expected rises in the price of gas and electricity, and charities predicted that this winter would see millions more people struggling to keep warm at home.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change statistics show 700,000 more UK families fell into fuel poverty in 2009, bringing the total to 5.5 million — one in five of all households. In the UK, fuel poverty is when a household needs to spend more than 10% of its income on fuel in order to heat its home to an adequate standard, and have hot water and run lights and appliances.
The department admitted that 100,000 more families in England alone were expected to go into fuel poverty this year.
The figures came less than a week after British Gas said its gas prices will rise by an average of 18% and electricity bills by 16%. Scottish Power has also raised its gas prices by 19% and electricity by 10%, while other power companies are expected to follow suit, blaming wholesale gas prices.
The government has admitted that bills will have to rise additionally to pay for a major rebuilding of the UK's power networks.
Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK, said it was astonishing that help for poorer households through the Warm Front subsidy scheme was being phased out despite "scandalous" power bills. "The promised solutions contained in the [government's] Green Deal don't come into force until late 2012 – too late for the millions of people struggling to heat their homes this winter," she added.
Dave Timms, campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said the department's figures showed the necessity of putting more money into the insulation of homes to ensure no energy was wasted.
"It is a national disgrace that millions of people were suffering in cold homes they can't afford to heat – insulating them properly would help vulnerable households save money on fuel bills and stay warm and healthy," he said.
Climate change minister Greg Barker admitted the fuel poverty figures were unacceptable but blamed past Labour policies and the state of the UK's housing.
"The fact is that homes in the UK are amongst the most expensive to heat in Europe, yet we don't have the most expensive gas and energy prices," he told BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme.
"Next year [we start] the most ambitious home improvement since the second world war, where we're not just putting a bit of lagging in people's lofts, but [will] transform, on a whole house basis, millions of homes over next decade."
The Green Deal promises to insulate all homes, with the cost being covered by savings from future energy bills. But the government is phasing out Labour's Warm Front programme which provided grants for draughtproofing and help with energy bills.
The department's figures of an extra 100,000 in fuel poverty hides the true hardship caused by rising fuel prices for millions of the UK's poorest people, according to Consumer Focus.
Spokeswoman Audrey Gallacher said this was because the department's predictions did not take into account that four of the big six energy providers have yet to announce expected price increases.
"If these [new price rises] are in line with British Gas and Scottish Power, around 12 million people, or 6.4 million British households, are likely to be in fuel poverty," she said.
Gillian Guy of Citizens Advice said the figures meant at least 5.5 million people in the UK were already living in freezing conditions through self-rationing and disconnection – with private tenants among those at highest risk of fuel poverty.
"Living in a cold home has a devastating impact on people's physical and mental health," she said, while others pointed out that the NHS spent £859m each year treating cold-related illnesses due to poorly insulated homes.
Shadow climate change minister Luciana Berger said that the government had removed support for households by scrapping Labour's Warm Front Scheme, which provided two million households with heating, and reducing winter fuel payments by up to £100: "Ministers must act now to deliver warm homes, rather than leaving millions shivering."
Yet another cost factor they haven't considered in the implementation of these reforms
(41) Now let's look at what some of the business sector thinks about welfare reform. They play an important part in the implementation of the Work programme and also play a key role as the commercial sector is ultimately where welfare to work recipeients will have to end up; - if sufficient placements can be found in the workplace.
As the business sector pours over the welfare reforms
The question which needs to be asked is have they got the right perception of all the problems they'll encounter?
Here's a few extracts from one of their round table reports
[Group Risk Developments - 13th January 2011]
"Making all of this work will undoubtedly mean changes for both individuals and businesses, as increased expectations for managing absence and rehabilitation back into the workplace are realised. Plus, employers are likely to face a wider applicant pool, with a greater number of people who need extra assistance getting started with work. In keeping with the ethics of the new administration, the onus is not currently on mandatory change but rather nudging both employers and their workforce into positive action. It¡¯s a bold move when the stakes are so high."
"The ¡°Universal Credit: Welfare that Works¡± white paper published on 11 November 2010 confirmed that the current complex system of means tested working age benefits and tax credits will gradually be replaced with the Universal Credit, an integrated payment that will ensure work always pays, with greater flexibility and less scope for fraud and error. Under the plans, the ¡°static¡± welfare system will be transformed by removing the complexities of the current benefits system and introducing a new system of conditionality, and even mandatory work activity for some jobseekers."
"Reforms to the benefits system will be complemented by the new Work Programme, which will harness the expertise of private and third sector specialists to provide personalised support for those with the greatest barriers to employment (the long term unemployed and disabled people). Providers will be paid on the basis of the additional benefit savings they secure, thereby incentivising higher performance levels and delivering net savings for the taxpayer. Put all this together and you have a new system of welfare support which aims to encourage more positive behaviours and which will pave the way for a major influx of workers back into the jobs market."
"However, there are currently 2.136 million working age people still on old-style IB - of these, 1.2 million have been claiming for five years or more and 900,000 have been claiming for a decade. All those on IB are to be reassessed and moved onto ESA or other more appropriate benefits using the WCA. The expectation (borne out by the pilot results in Aberdeen and Burnley) is that a significant number of those whose Incapacity Benefit is reviewed will be found fit for work or able to take up work with a little help, yielding significant savings for the tax payer. The latest plans will also see a reform of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and a review of current working age DLA claimants."
The problems is the business sector don't know how 'accurate' the process of medical assessments are, they'll soon find out when having to place people with severe physical and mental health problems in their work outlets; - it'll be more of a problem than they think.
There are cost factors which will come to light if the wrong people are placed back into work, not least the cost of people becoming ill whilst say working with machinery or unsuitable work placements which transpire to have a detrimental effect on people's health.
(43) It's back to our old friends, the benefit fraud busters
Because Lord Freud is clamping down on Fraud They'll be plenty of finger pointing
Earlier this year, Government launched yet another impact assessment on the implemenation of its new single fraud service. Surprisingly, they conclude that investigating fraud won't have any impact on the health and well being of individuals; - amazing!
Here's what they aim to do, by the way there's a fair few errors in the paper. Apparently, they aim to increase overpayments! Now come on Lord Fraud, surely you mean decrease?
They've also seemingly forgotten to factor in the cost of 200 extra fraud officers and the use of private contractors; official error before we've got it off the ground?
Here's some extracts from the assessment
Description and scale of key monetised benefits by ‘main affected groups’
"Benefits arise due to a larger number of Tax Credit fraud cases being investigated and overpayments stopped – with additional deterrent effect; larger number of higher-value cases investigated due to totality of benefit fraud being taken into account (e.g. Housing Benefit, Tax Credit, and DWP benefits); and a reduction in duplication."
The policy change was initially intended to be introduced in April 2011, which would have resulted in a net benefit over SR10 period. The start date has subsequently been delayed 2013/14 to be more in line with the introduction of Universal Credit in October 2013; as a result the breakeven point now occurs in 2015/16 so there will be a net cost during the SR10 period. From 2015/16 onwards the annual administrative savings will be approximately twice the £18m savings estimated for 2014/15. Policy objective
To increase the level of sanctions and prosecutions per investigator administered to Tax Credit and benefit customers committing fraud. And at the same time increase levels of overpayments of benefits thus reducing the overall amount of loss in the benefit system due to fraud and error.
The estimated savings
Reduced Housing Benefit overpayments from existing DWP activity £0.6m
Reduced DWP overpayments benefits from existing LA activity £2.8m
Reduced Tax Credit overpayments from existing DWP activity £9.2m
Reduced overpayments on Tax Credits through non-fraud DWP activity. £26.3m
Reduced Tax Credit overpayments from existing LA activity £5.3m
Increased performance on Tax Credits leading to increased administrative penalty collection, decreased Tax Credit overpayments and decreased DWP and Housing Benefit overpayments £1.5m
Reduced overpayments of DWP and Housing Benefit by reducing the current level of duplication required across LAs and DWP. £7.9m
Of which Tax Credits £42.2m Of which DWP benefits £11.2m
The relevance of all this finger pointing relates to appeals, we'll return to it soon. Let's also remember how they've pledged to 'clean up' 2 million claims, now I don't suppose that means wiping your file over with a tea towel do you?
This will become a familiar sight in our Tribunals Service centres, every single room will be crammed full of cases waiting to be heard.
With all this accent on increased fraud detection, all the accent on getting people off benefits, all the official error, the need to clean up on claims and get the Universal Credit up and running, what is likely to happen to our Tribunal statistics. Remember also the importance of targets and the need for Government to deliver on deficit reduction and make significant savings on the benefit bill by 2015.
Here's a reaonable prediction of what will happen to the following benefit related appeals, I'll explain why in the next post.
Income Support - Total Claims 1,800,000.00, let's say 10 %appeal making 180,000.00 appeals to be heard by 2015 or 45,000 per year.
Tax Credits - Total Claims 8,100,000.00, let's say 10% appeal making 810,000.00 appeals to be heard by 2015 or 202,500 per year.
Child Benefit - Total Claims 7,700,000.00, let's say 2% appeal making 154,000.00 appeals to be heard by 2015 or 38,500 per year.
Housing Benefit/CTB - Total Claims 4,700,000.00, let's say 6% appeal making 282,000.00 appeals to be heard by 2015 or 70,500 per year.
In total these additional appeals could add an enormous 1,426,000.00 appeals to be heard by 2015 or 356,500 per year
Let's just add this 356,500 to the 532,480 we already have and we end up with a whopping 888,980 additional social security appeals per year - and we still haven't included some of the others such as Pension Credit, Industrial Injuries etc etc.
It's in chaos now, it would be in utter meltdown if they try and do all they set out to do in time to make some savings by 2015.
Of course some of this is an element of crystal ball gazing, because we're dealing with unknown quantities, not helped by a lack of clear statistical data on certain information which seems to be lacking from public records.
But equally, Government isn't Mystic Meg is it?
It's one of the downfalls of any 'experimental' reform, that you are dealing with a huge number of unknowns. Government hasn't really got a clue as to how economic growth and a rise in private sector employment may, or may not take off. George Osborne has only just down graded his forecasts on economic growth, we're in for a long and slow road to economic recovery and prosperity.
Nor has Government got a clue as to how many of the thousands, well millions, of claimants it thinks 'can and should work' will transpire to be able to. It's pinning all it's hopes on the media headlines turning out to be ones which it can justify; - in my view, it was a huge mistake to publish the headlines ahead of the evidenced base, Government could end up being very embarrased over what the evidence says - it's yet to be tested.
There are also a number of 'black holes' in the statistical basis upon which Government has mapped out its plans to reform the welfare state, it's already realising it's made a few blunders; - there are many more on the horizon.
Almost everyone has warned that the success or failure of these reforms depends on the detail, at the moment we're seeing more of the devil. No one disputes it's right to reform our welfare state, but let's not do so on the basis of wild assumption and stereotyping the claimanats who the media portray in such a negative light.
But let's get back to why I think the number of appeals in other claimant groups will rise.
Predictions on appeal increases
There is going to be a pronounced emphasis on fraud detection, much of which will focus on allegations that a claimant is living together with an 'undeclared partner'. It's one of the key areas of investigation and all overpayment 'clean ups' are retrospective reviews. The most common claimants in this group are lone parents and people who claim on the grounds of incapacity, they often have their income support entitlement linked to premium adjustments associated with other benefits such as DLA.
A pronounced focus on recipients will see more people contesting overpayment related decisions as well as those associated with refuting decisions on related benefits. A 10% rate of appellants does not seem unreasonable, it could be higher.
Again we know that there are going to major clean ups on claims. There is a huge emphasis on this in the recent impact assessment with estimated savings of over £9 million pounds on the new single fraud agency initiative alone.
To a large degree you can't appeal Tax Credit decisions, but when allegations are made that remove an entitlement retrospectively you can. So if someone claimed tax credits as a lone parent, and an allegation is made they are living with someone else; - they have a right of appeal against the entitlement element. Equally, there will be an increased number of appeals as people contest disputes over their number of working hours, these are closely associated with tapers which determine how much the award is. Similarly disputes on disability and incapacity related benefits may have an impact on disability elements in people's tax credit awards if they are working.
Again 10% doesn't seem unreasonable.
There a huge number of claimants who by and large have little to contest. I suppose we may see an increase in appeals on who should be the recipient in cases where there is familiy estrangement, but the more predominant area is likely to be over 'banding'.
Government is reforming Child Benefit for the first time in ages. It's reforms are controversial to say the least. It goes on the basis of excluding an entitlement where one earner earns over around £40,000 per year. Perversely, if there are two earners in the same family earning less than the threshold cut off point, they retain their entitlement.
People, especially the self employed, will almost certainly contest the assessment of their earnings if it means the loss of a non-means tested benefit which could significantly decrease their annual income. Claimants are likely to feel punished if one person as a single arner is excluded, yet 'they know of someone' who earns twice as much and still gets their money; - it's human nature and could bring a number of 'middle income' appellants who feel what little they get is being taken away.
A 2% increase seems a minimum, it could be another tax credit moment like we saw back in 2003.
Housing & Council Tax Benefit
Again, I suspect this will related to revisions in other benefits which are retrospectively reviewed. Income Support or JSA removal is nearly always associated with a mirrored appeal on their Housing & Council Tax Benefit, the two go together as they are linked as a passported entitlement.
A 6% rate seems conservative and quite probable.
Well that's how I reason it, have your say and tell me what you think?
We're getting near the end of the appeal count, although we still have to have a look at the savings behind these 'radical' reforms. After all, the objective is to save the state a whole load of cash.
For now let's just return to the remaining appeals.
So with a possible prediction of 888,980 appeals per year in the melting pot, what of those other remaining social security appeals?
Well let's look at these of the existing 2010/2011 Tribunal statistics and make some further predictions as to what may happen.
The remaining benefits in the system are:
Attendance Allowance - with 4200 appeals receipts in 2010/2011 - let's predict a 3% increase, making 4326
Bereavement benefits stood at 500, say an increase of 2% which gives us 510
Carers Allowance were 1,600 - a higher rate of increase at 12% seems probable given all the accent on disability related appeals -upping the figure to 1,792
Child Support Alllowance appeals were 3,700 - now I'd guess cash strapped parents might push this up at around 15% giving us an extra 555 appeals - making 4,255 appeals.
Compensation Recovery Unit appeals were 370, let's those at the same figure and keep it at 370.
Health in Pregnancy, was 390 - we'll keep it the same so 390
Home Responsibility Protection was 25. An increased awareness over pension related issues may push this up by a nominal margin, it won't be much so let's just say 26 appeals.
Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit was 9,200, now a larger increase seems more probable because this is being 'reformed' and disputes are more likely to go to appeal. Applying a 15% increase puts this up by 1380 giving us 10,580 appeals.
Now the sum total of all of these appeals was 27,853 in 2010/2011 and the above predicted increases would take this up to 30,64.20
We add this to our existing 888,980 and end up with a figure of 919,628 - it's a phenominal increase.
Remember how CAB were claiming that £16 billion went unclaimed per year, what on earth would happen if all those highly effective benefit take up campaigns started up again? - it would almost certainly end in some disputes and push our annual appeal figures over one million a year; - the Tribunals could never cope.
So there we have it, now I would say this was a perfectly valid and well reasoned argument as to how these Tribunal appeals are set to increase very dramatically.
You'll have to make up your own mind.
Just remember 919,628 appeals per year; - now that is a lot.
We'll next look at the reform 'timings' and how our chancellor needs to get some return if we are to see any savings which can be made to offset our fiscal deficit.
(49) Let's remind ourselves of George's predictions
George Osborne announces the comprehensive spending review.
Listen to what George has pledged to deliver
Spending review 2010: George Osborne announces extra £7bn of welfare cuts
Chancellor unveils biggest UK spending cuts in decades, telling MPs 'today is the day that Britain steps back from the brink'
Hélène Mulholland and Nicholas Watt guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 20 October 2010
"George Osborne today announced an extra £7bn of welfare cuts, allowing him to turn the tables on Labour by claiming reductions in Whitehall departments would be lower than those planned by the previous government.
Osborne told MPs that "today is the day that Britain steps back from the brink", as he outlined the long-awaited comprehensive spending review, which he said would achieve a balanced budget and falling national debt by 2014-15 while putting public services and the welfare system "on a sustainable, long-term footing".
The chancellor outlined a series of complex new welfare reforms to make the extra savings, as he claimed that the coalition was confronting a "decade of debt".
To gasps from the Labour benches, the chancellor announced "tough but fair" reforms that will lead to extra changes for housing benefit and on the rules for the mobility and care arrangements for disability living allowance.
Alan Johnson, the shadow chancellor, attacked "the deepest cuts to public spending in living memory", which he warned could end up "stifling" the economic recovery.
Osborne also announced that there would be an annual £2.5bn saving from withdrawing child benefit from higher rate taxpayers – more than the £1bn identified when the chancellor announced the change at the Tory conference earlier this month.
The extra raid on welfare gave the chancellor a highly political flourish at the end of his spending announcement. Osborne said that extra cuts to welfare meant that departmental budgets would be cut by 19% over the next four years.
This is one percentage point lower than the 20% cut implied in Labour's plans to halve the fiscal deficit over four years.
To loud cheers from Tory MPs, who rose to wave their order papers, the chancellor said: "The average savings in departmental budgets will be lower than the previous government implied in its March budget.
"Instead of cuts of 20% there will be cuts of 19% over four years. So I thank them for their input and look forward to their support."
The announcement by the chancellor, reminiscent of the political flourishes by Gordon Brown when he attempted to embarrass the Tories, was designed to undermine Labour's central charge: that the coalition's plans to eliminate the structural deficit by 2015 are irresponsibly fast and will jeopardise the fragile recovery."
"In a highly political speech lasting just over an hour, the chancellor said the £83bn public spending cuts over the next four years in the government's most severe financial retrenchment in decades were based on reform, fairness and growth."