Poor set to suffer thanks to Barwell’s posturing

“Over the past five years, benefits have risen twice as fast as salaries.” Thus spoke the Member of Parliament for Croydon Central in full-on arslikhan mode at Prime Minister’s Questions at the House of Commons.

“Does the Prime Minister agree that, while we have a duty to the least well-off, it cannot be fair that people who are out of work enjoy bigger increases in their living standards than those who graft hard, day and night, to support themselves and their families?”

Gavin Barwell speaking in parliament, seeking attention - and the credit - for making hard times harder for Croydon people

Gavin Barwell speaking in parliament, seeking attention – and the credit – for making hard times harder for Croydon people

Was Gavin Barwell speaking on behalf of his constituents, or just to further his own political career within his Conservative party, with its millionaires’ front bench full of other public school-educated posh boys?

Certainly, the poorest and most vulnerable in Croydon will soon come to bitterly regret Barwell’s ill-judged sycophancy to David Cameron.

Having already celebrated Croydon’s young people being paid an exploitative £1.87 an hour to carry out some social care work in return for continuing to receive their Job Seekers’ Allowance in a pilot scheme, last month Barwell, attention-seeking, needy for approval, tried to show off to the Old Etonian Prime Minister by attacking those unable to find work.

It seems not to matter to Barwell whether these people cannot get work despite repeated job applications, in a triple-dip recession created by Gideon Osborne.

Many local Conservatives are horrified by Barwell’s vilification of Croydon people who have lost their jobs. With the borough enduring what the deputy leader of the council and its outgoing CEO concede is a worsening housing crisis, the MP’s self-aggrandising posturing seems to have led to Croydon being made one of four pilot areas to trial cuts in housing benefits.

Croydon’s poor and homeless will become Barwell social experiment guinea pigs, together with pilot areas Bromley, Enfield and Haringey from April 1.

This will hit Croydon hard, not once, but twice. Croydon residents will suffer cuts in benefits that others elsewhere in the country will not have to endure. But also, it is highly likely that landlords will shun our council as it desperately tries to house the growing number of Croydon people who have less support to pay their rent.

While repeatedly breaking the law by keeping homeless families, many with young children, in sub-standard B&B accommodation for longer than its legally allowed, Croydon Council has been reduced to looking at using porters’ lodges in crematoriums to house the homeless.

Of course, having helped to make an already bad situation far worse with his ridiculous, private school debating posturing as a “benefits hard man”, Barwell has now announced that he has “met with the minister”, as if that will automatically put right the problems in his constituency and the borough at large.

In the real world,  it achieves nothing.

Note the the tone of dismissive derision shown in an answer from the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan-Smith, to the Croydon Central MP in the Commons on Monday. After Barwell’s latest, grandstanding, look-at-me question, The Quiet Man was heard to say, effectively, “Yes, I am doing what I said I would”.

Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central): As the Secretary of State confirmed, Croydon will be one of the first places where this policy is rolled out. May I thank Lord Freud, who is the Minister responsible for welfare reform, and the housing Minister for meeting me to discuss this? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that his Department will work closely with my local authority to ensure that this important policy is implemented smoothly?

Iain Duncan Smith (Secretary of State, Work and Pensions; Chingford and Woodford Green, Conservative): I say to my hon. Friend and to all hon. Members and hon. Friends whose areas are affected by the roll-out that we are in deep discussions with all those councils. Jobcentre Plus will be working hugely with each of them, advising, helping and supporting them—in many senses, giving them more support than is necessarily likely to be the case when the national roll-out follows the pilot programmes.

Thirty years ago, one of the brightest of Conservative MPs, Matthew Parris, spent time trying to live on the dole for a television programme. He failed. You have to wonder how Barwell might cope on Job Seekers’ Allowance and housing benefit if he was to be made unemployed – it is just a pity that may have to wait at least until the next general election.

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7 Responses to Poor set to suffer thanks to Barwell’s posturing

  1. Ratnaraja says:

    I am a Conservative living on dole and very soon will be losing our house which I have been paying a mortgage for the last 13 years. I am sure a number of other Conservatives will be pleased to see me on the streets so that I will shut up. Is it my fault I am out of a job? If the government can find me a job I will do it. Thank God I had my children before I started claiming benefits. If not the Conservatives would have punished me for having children and being on dole.

    I am sorry to say that these people are completely out of touch with the public. Why should I work so hard canvassing and delivering leaflets for a party which is destroying itself by not being in touch with the voters?

  2. With low rates of pay increases over recent years (except for some of the already overpaid “fat cats”), the difference in increases between those working and those on benefits cannot amount to much. Plus, of course, those whose incomes very closely match their necessary outgoings are always vulnerable to small changes in those outgoings. This is why we need to protect everyone with a marginal income, whether they are in work or on benefits. Finally, why is that, when someone wants to attack the benefits system in any way, there always seems to be an implication that all benefits payments go to those who are idle and feckless, forgetting the large number of claimants who are sick or disabled, and those who, through no fault of their own, are struggling to find a job in a market where there are too many people chasing too few vacancies?

  3. Barwell’s position is just typical of the DecepetiCONS and Predators as I now call the Tories. DecepetiCONS because they do not believe in conserving anything; Predators because they damage the lives of the 14 million at the bottom end of society.

    14m? That is the figure estimated by the Poverty & Social Exclusion Project. http://www.poverty.ac.uk.

    Patrick Ratnaraja can take some comfort that not all Tories like what is happening. In Wandsworth they have decided to cushion the impact of the nationwide changes to Council Tax benefit rules and will pick up the cost of maintaining the current system, sparing low income households a tax increase from April.

    While Ratnaraja’s plight is a personal tragedy for his family, the logic of his position is that he should resign from the Tory Party. Labour will of course say vote for them. Unfortunately the former Labour government also vilified the poor and until there is some serious mea culpa from the leadership, voting Labour in 2015 to get the ConDems out of office is going to be done with great reluctance by many of us.

  4. derekthrower says:

    The Conservatives never ending conflation of index linked benefits to wage rises is the sure sign of desperation as their policies fail and they drive the economy into a spiral of deflation and further austerity.

    The bullying of the poor may be popular in the short term but does nothing for economic confidence. The automatic stabilisers are being cut. Despite this, Government debt is increasing.

    Government bond yields are increasing. The crisis they claim to have averted is now happening. Expect the stigmatism of the poor to increase as these desperate fools try to deflect blame for their complete incompetence.

  5. Andrew Leng says:

    Points that have been made before but are worth reiterating.

    The comparison between benefits and wages is very unfair and highly misleading. Unemployment benefit has dramatically fallen in value from just under 21% of average wages in 1979 to 11% now. At 21%, jobseekers allowance would be £135 a week today, instead of just £71.

    Capping unemployment benefit at 1% will mean a 71p a week increase, whereas the same increase in the average UK wage equates to an extra £5.01 a week. So it is completely wrong to say, as Barwell does, that “those out of work enjoy bigger increases in their living standards than those who “graft, day and night….”

    The cost of living is soaring. The average household weekly food bill increased by 7.3% last year, according to consumer group Which?, and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs economists estimate the average cost of a weekly shop will go up by 4% a year until 2022 at least. Gas and electricity prices have recently risen by up to 9% and rail fares have increased recently by 4%. Taken together with the benefit changes and impending council tax changes/cuts this will only serve to push more people into poverty. Currently it is estimated that 13 million people live below the poverty line in the UK; 1 in every 5 people.

    Instead of vilifying the sick and unemployed Mr. Barwell should offer some support and positive solutions to help them regain a sense of self worth and dignity? I find the constant attacks on some of the most vulnerable people in society by him and his party absolutely vile. The unemployed are an easy target, which he has personally attacked with some relish recently. I think this is appalling behavior from a constituency MP, allegedly elected to serve the interests of his constituents.

    Many of his constituents are unemployed, the vast majority through no fault of their own (via job losses in the public AND private sector). Do they deserve the term “skiver” and attacked with such vitriolic abuse from Barwell and his millionaire chums in the cabinet and the Conservative party? I would have hoped that as a “conscientious” constituency MP he could and should offer his unemployed constituents support in such difficult economic times. Instead he seems to take some sort of perverse pride in targeting the unemployed and using them as convenient scapegoats for the mess this country is in.

    In the next few months I face the very real prospect of losing my job, as part of the Con Dems ideological drive to cut the public sector. I have been unemployed before and I really wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. It is not a lifestyle choice that I would ascribe to. It is a struggle and you lose your sense of dignity and self worth. It is a very demoralizing experience. The prospect of being unemployed again fills me with absolute dread.

    So just pause and think Mr. Barwell if, god forbid, you were ever to find yourself unemployed. Have some humility and try and understand, support and represent your vulnerable constituents. Better still try living on unemployment benefit for 4 to 6 weeks, try and meet your household bills and feed and clothe your family. See how you cope.

  6. Around 30 years ago (when Matthew Parris tried living on it) the dole was worth 21% of average earnings. Today it’s £71 per week and worth only 11%. If Jobseeker’s Allowance (as it’s now called) was worth 21% of average earnings it would be £135 per week.

    In 2009, an opinion poll told people the level of JSA and asked if they were confident they could live on it. 79% said ‘no’. Only 4% were very confident they could.

    The only out of control benefit is housing benefit which goes to landlords. Instead of capping rents though this government is capping benefits. It’s perverse.

  7. While I agree with most of what Andrew Fisher says he has accepted a commonly held assumption:

    “The only out of control benefit is housing benefit which goes to landlords. Instead of capping rents though this government is capping benefits.”

    Housing Benefit claims are assessed based on the Local Housing Allowance which caps rental payments at the level of the lowest 30% market rent for the area. An important point being that this includes everyone renting including long term tenants who tend to have smaller increases.

    The current cap is £156 per week for a single person for a single residence, age restrictions also apply.

    I agree that capping housing benefit curretly affects the tenant not the rental amount the landlord can charge.

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