Archive | January, 2012

Time to Scrap the UK’s Child Benefit Payment

20 Jan

On the 04 October 2010, the BBC reported changes to the UK benefits/ Social Security system regarding payment of Child Benefit. At present, Child Benefit is a universal, weekly payment to all British families with children up to the age of 16. However, as reported by the BBC, Chancellor George Osborne, announced that payment would be axed for all higher rate taxpayers by 2013.

Changes to the payment are expected to save approximately £1bn, and will affect over 1 million families. The cost of implementing and axing payments is not exactly clear, but the actual saving could reasonably be estimated to be equal to half that of the cost of the intended saving, due to the costs of staffing, office, and admin incurred in order to review household incomes in receipt of the payment. We might ask then, is it really worth it? Is a saving, even if half the amount suggested, not a saving?

Another concern is that of the inequality that will arise in the way decisions to axe payment discriminate against certain households. It has been suggested that some households, despite earning less, will be worse off than those earning more. For example, a single parent household earning £44K will lose all Child Benefit payments; but a two-parent household, earning a joint or single income up to £80K, will not lose any of their Benefit.

This will result in a single parent, and his or her child(ren), being worse off by more than £1,000 per year, despite earning almost 50% less than a two-parent household. Yes, in a worsening economic climate, savings do have to be made to the public purse. But should this be at the expense of creating further inequality within society and, at greater hardship to lone parents, when the cost of living continues to go on rising?

Christine Odone in her blog for the Telegraph, suggests David Cameron is a man who believes in marriage. Well, as well as cost-cutting, a real skeptic then, might also consider this an exercise in promoting Christian and Tory family values, damning those who bring up children outside of marriage, or through divorce, to a life of continued, and ever worsening poverty.

Surely a better and fairer system, would be to scrap the universality of Child Benefit altogether, and make it a benefit that parents have to apply for, and is based on a fairer measure of household income, as with the number of children in the household? Why? Because at present, Child Benefit costs the UK taxpayer approximately £12bn a year. If it were means tested, and the system did not discriminate against the earnings of a single parent; in comparison to the earnings of a two-parent household, then critics would have little to criticize other than the cost of administering the changes, which would surely result in greater savings than just half that of the expected £1bn?

In the end, as well as the financial savings we need to make, as a society, it all comes back to what kind of society we wish to live in, and how fair society should aspire to be. Unless equality is integral to all decisions of this kind, then what are we doing, and what can we hope to achieve.

Author: Jason Schumann

Tags: Cultural Analysis, Debating Culture,British Society, Child Benefit, Social Welfare, British families, British Economy, UK Politics, Family Values, Conservative values, Chancellor George Osborne, UK Taxpayer

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David Cameron’s Property Scam

20 Jan

In November 2011, the Telegraph reported on the purchase of a property and land adjacent to David Cameron’s Oxfordshire home. The adjacent land was then sold to Cameron, but not declared in his public office.

The headline read that Cameron should have declared the purchase, from Lord Chadlington, a lobbyist, with links to the Conservative party, and Cameron’s constituency association. Cameron failed to do so, without explanation or questioning the propriety or integrity of not doing so. Suspect? It is, especially when you consider that Chadlington and his company, Huntsworth, also donated to Cameron’s constituency association, and the Tory party.

As is usual, the matter seems to have been brushed under the carpet. But how does this reflect on our perceptions of politicians in the current economic climate? Does it not matter that politicians, such as the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, ought to walk the talk, when they are making noises about the integrity of the banks?

It would appear not, and that is a shame. Yes, mass unemployment, failing businesses, and a stagnant economy, should all be top priority. But what does that say about Britain’s Prime Minister, and the British government, if Cameron is failing to act in the way that he is preaching to others?

The UK parliamentary standards watchdog has stated that Cameron’s land purchase should have been registered and reported. But why, if it had the powers to do more, did the Watchdog not order further investigation into matter? Yes, it does not look well to have a nation’s coalition leader under scrutiny of impropriety at a time of economic decline. But what does it say about the inclination of the Watchdog if it is unwilling to exercise its constitutional powers?

More importantly, why are the general populous not concerned with Cameron’s integrity and apparent lack of transparency in such matters? If accusations against Cameron in this matter are true, does it not suggest to society that there should be some concern and scrutiny in all dealings of this nature, especially when in public office?

If not, then why not? Surely, as a progressive and aspirational society, it is integrity at the highest level, and in all personal, economic, and political dealings, of this sort that matter most. Why? Because progressive and honest societies shape our perceptions of what is good in the hope of aspiring to, or fulfilling a greater good in working toward a fairer and more transparent society. If societies only practice that which is considered in their own interests, and therefore without integrity, then society itself has no such integrity.

In addition, why has Cameron not explained himself to the media and to the public, allaying any doubt or suspicions of impropriety? Why has he not sought to correct the picture, and establish himself as a man of integrity and of the people, who is interested in a greater good, based on the qualities of humanity that we all aspire to and are truly good?

In the view of this author, Cameron should have been properly investigated, to determine the exact nature and extent of his relationship and dealings with lobbyists and business. Until this happens, Cameron cannot claim to be an individual of substance and integrity. In the words of the brilliant and late Christopher Hitchens, Cameron is ‘content-free’. We might say the same of all British politics and future aspirations.

Author: Jason Schumann

Tags: Cultural Analysis, Debating Culture,Lord Chadlington, David Cameron, Huntsworth Group, UK Prime Minister, Witney Conservative association, UK Politics, Huntsworh Group, Lord Chadlington

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