Posts Tagged ‘Matthew Whittley’

Immigration: facts not fiction, please

08/05/2013, 07:48:31 AM

by Matthew Whittley

Looking at reports of today’s Queen’s speech, where the government is set to announce plans to restrict migrants’ access to benefits, social housing and the NHS, one could be forgiven for thinking that most migrants are living the life in five bedroom social homes, staffed with their own personal GP.

But the measures mooted will have no impact on levels of immigration, because people don’t come here to claim benefits, they come to work. Of the 850,000 migrants to have arrived from Eastern Europe since 2004, only 13,000 were claiming Jobseekers Allowance in Febuary 2011. Those same migrants are about 60% less likely than natives to claim benefits or live in social housing.

And even if they were “benefit tourists” migrating in search of an “attractive benefits system”, the UK wouldn’t have been high on their list of potential destinations. The UK spends less on benefits than many other European nations including Germany, France and Italy. It would appear that we are not a “soft touch” after all.

Already this morning we’ve heard from Jeremy Hunt touring the broadcast studios about migrants “clogging up” the NHS and claims from government ministers that migrants “expect something for nothing”. This choice of language paints the picture of immigrants as a burden on resources, when in fact they are net contributors to the public finances; we would be worse off without them.

In the four years from 2004, Eastern Europeans contributed over 35% more in taxes than they received in benefits. This language also fosters a climate of suspicion and division that can easily turn to discrimination and xenophobia. We only have to look at Greece, where violent attacks against immigrants have become commonplace, to see where this can lead.


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Osborne’s reputation for economic competence is fatally damaged. Labour must now start restoring theirs

23/04/2013, 12:13:09 PM

by Matthew Whittley

Perceptions of economic competence will largely determine who takes power in 2015. It is well-known that Labour has its work cut out to regain trust with the nation’s purse strings, but if anyone needed further proof that the economy isn’t safe in George Osborne’s hands, the need look no further than today’s economic news.

The latest figures tell us that there has been no improvement in underlying borrowing, which is has been running at almost the same level for the past two years. According to OBR forecasts, it will be around the same this year. As a result of the failure to stimulate any growth in the economy, the government is now set to borrow £245 billion more than planned

George Osborne’s main opportunity to do something about the hole he’s dug for the nation, was in March with the budget. But he blew it: the budget amounted to no more than a “do nothing” series of holding measures.

With household budgets squeezed and business lacking confidence to invest, Osborne should have prioritised growth by borrowing to invest in capital projects, rather than borrowing to finance failure as is currently happening. One doesn’t need a PhD in macroeconomics to know that capital spending has a huge multiplier effect on growth.

However, the derisory £2.5bn of capital investment promised in the budget falls way short of what is required to kick-start the economy. To put this figure in context, the Economist, hardly a bastion of Keynesianism, recommended an extra £28bn of infrastructure investment.

It should have become clear by now to him that the debt can’t be reduced in the absence of growth. The UK has grown only 0.7% since the third quarter of 2010. During that time, Japan and Italy are the only major G20 economies to have performed worse than the UK.


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Austerity isn’t inevitable. Labour needs to be bolder on the alternative

08/04/2013, 01:07:55 PM

by Matthew Whittley

We have grown familiar with Tory backbencher’s frustration at the reality of coalition government that prevents them from delivering the yet deeper cuts to social security that a Conservative manifesto would likely call for. So much so that it’s easy to forget just how radical this government has been on welfare. The austerity driven assault on the poor has started to gather pace, with the first raft of welfare reforms already implemented.

This month, the vital link between benefits and inflation will be broken. With inflation remaining at close to 3%, the 1% cap on the uprating of benefits will make it even harder for those families already struggling to keep pace with the rising cost of living. Furthermore, the ending of full council tax rebate is forcing two million low-income households to contribute hundreds of pounds to their council tax – a tax that, until now, they have been considered too poor to pay.

This appears to have gone largely under the radar. One cut that has attracted substantial media attention is the introduction of under-occupancy charges for 660,000 social housing tenants – what’s been dubbed the ‘bedroom tax’. Those with a spare bedroom are having to deal with cuts to their housing benefit of, on average, £56 a month. As well as reducing the housing benefit bill, the government argues that this policy has been designed to make the best use of housing stock. Unfortunately, there aren’t anywhere near enough small properties to move people into.

This is especially the case in the North. Teeside based housing association Coast and Country Housing, for example, has 1,800 tenants classed as under-occupying, but they have only two one-bed properties available to let. People are being sanctioned for not moving into smaller houses that don’t exist.


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