"Do you really think it's wrong for people who can't afford to live privately in those areas that the state should subsidise people to the tune of more than £21,000? I don't think so."
But first... let's go back a few days in time to see how we got to this point.
David Cameron refuses to back down over housing benefit cap
Prime minister tells Commons he is sticking by controversial policy as Labour steps up campaign against cuts and lobbies Lib Dems for support
Hélène Mulholland, political reporter
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 27 October 2010 17.00 BST
David Cameron today dismissed speculation that the government would climb down over its cap on housing benefit, despite claims that the policy could drive 200,000 poorer people out of major cities.
The prime minister made clear his determination to stand firm on the controversial proposals at prime minister's questions.
His comments came as Labour stepped up its campaign against the decision to cut housing benefit for people who have been out of work for 12 months and lobbied Liberal Democrat MPs concerned by the plans.
Read the rest of the article at:
Video is at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/video/2010/oct/27/pmqs-david-cameron-ed-miliband-video
Corrections and clarifications column editor
The Guardian, Thursday 28 October 2010
In a story yesterday headed Three-quarters of incapacity benefit claimants are fit to work, says DWP, the headline and opening paragraph over-compressed findings issued by the Department for Work and Pensions. And while a departmental statement made some mention of incapacity benefit, the figures at issue concerned the successor scheme – employment and support allowance (ESA), which has been in force for new claimants since October 2008. To clarify the figures: the 75% of ESA claimants characterised as fit to work actually included, as the second paragraph of our story said, people who closed their claim before medical assessments were complete. The full breakdown of how new claims were assessed between October 2008 and February 2010 was: claimants fit for work, 39%; claims closed before assessment complete, 36%; claimants unable to work now but with help could work in the foreseeable future, 15%; those unable to work now and needing long-term unconditional support, 6%; cases still being assessed, 3%. Parenthetically, a further outcome appears elsewhere in the official report from which the figures came, Employment and Support Allowance: Work Capability Assessment, October 2010. Its section on appeals notes that of people found fit for work after making a claim for ESA between October 2008 and August 2009, 33% have had an appeal heard to date; of these, the original fit-to-work decision was "confirmed for 60%"; by implication 40% of fitness rulings were not upheld (27 October, page 12).
The above was a corrective to this otherwise excellent article which demonstrates that the Conservative and LibDem Coalition of David Cameron and Nick Clegg are not going to give-up on what they said they would do to put Great Britain on a sounder, fairer footing for the future, namely, increased public accountability, and for the Conservatives in particular, to fundamentally restructure the economy.
One of those goals was an end to the subsidization of certain social living arrangements in the country, wherein some people in London have gained at the expen$e of other Britons, leading to London mayor Boris Johnson's ridiculous remarks comparing this policy to the ethnic cleansing that took place in Kosovo, which he is now claiming was taken out of context.
To be exact, Johnson said "Kosovo-style social cleansing of London."
Oh, like a comparison of Serbia's policy of ethnic killing/rapes to anything in Britain is ever appropriate in some context?
See: http://www.channel4.com/news/catch-up/display/playlistref/281010/clipid/281010_HOUSING_28 and http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/oct/28/boris-johnson-kosovo-style-cleansing-housing-benefit
British taxpayers pay around £20bn a year for housing benefits, which is why many of my British friends who live outside the metropolitan areas, are forever going-on about Local Housing Allowances and how many of their former Labour-turned-Conservative friends finally saw the light for forthright reform, regardless of the agitprop from the predictable quarters, once they had a family of their own.
Video of Housing Minister Grant Shapps on housing benefit row
Three-quarters of incapacity benefit claimants are fit to work, says DWP
Government seeks to demonstrate momentum as Clegg rejects accusation of social 'cleansing'
Allegra Stratton, political correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 26 October 2010 21.22 BST
Three-quarters of the incapacity benefit claimants reassessed recently are able to work, the government claimed today as it sought to demonstrate momentum in the drive to reform the welfare system.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures showed that 78% of the 842,100 people reassessed were either fit for work or had closed their claim before medical assessments were complete.
The government is pushing ahead with the programme of reassessing those on the old-style incapacity benefit. It plans to cut back the wider benefit bill by £18bn.
The issue of caps to housing benefit, meanwhile, flared up in the Commons today.
Read the rest of the post at:
27 October 2010 Last updated at 10:54 ET
Housing benefit cuts: Who loses out?
By Ross Hawkins Political correspondent
A different but well-argued point of view on the incapacity benefit was offered up by Guardian reader Melissa Viney back in July:
Draconian incapacity benefit tests are failing the sick
Inaccurate medical assessment and an inflexible benefit system are putting the most vulnerable at greatest risk
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 29 July 2010 13.30 BST
A disturbing sleight of hand within the revised benefits system has been performed on the electorate and particularly on the sick and disabled. It goes like this: Labour replaced the previous incapacity benefit (IB) with the new employment support allowance (ESA) in 2008 and introduced a fiendishly hard new medical test, followed by members of the government applauding their success in identifying record numbers of incapacity benefits claimants who are fit for work.
Read the rest of the post at:
The reader comments are spot-on, too, so be sure to read them. Here's a small taste, from the Viney essay: That's fine and well, but one of a number of reasons the benefit regulations are getting toughened is due to the culture of certain doctors simply signing off irritating benefit claimants. I've spoken to more than a few people who despite suffering from depression were perfectly happy to bite my head off and chat with me for a while and spend a great deal of their weekend enjoying their social lives. It was only when work was inevitably mentioned that their depression seemed to emerge.
Or as some of my friends would say, "Stop milking the bloody system!"
Or as one reader wrote, in part, at The Telegraph in response to story number one:
I welcome the housing benefits reform. Why should those of us livng and paying tax throughout the rest of the country be forced to pay for benefits scroungers and/or immigrants to live in Central London?
A similar comment by another reader was equally to the point:
If you want a house in a nice area then I’m afraid you’re going to have to work for it. And, I hate to break it to you, even then you might not be able to. Most people (myself included) working 40 hours per week can’t afford to live in a posh area so why should non-workers get to do it at taxpayers expense?
The Viney essay above is an example of exactly the sort of thing the Miami Herald and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel should've instituted years ago in order to remain relevant to public discourse in South Florida, where they are now afterthoughts -offering articulate readers the space to sound off on matters they know about, rather than the Usual Suspects.
Instead, despite new and original voices percolating out there and technology making it easier than ever to find them, the Herald and Sun-Sentinel have among the worst Op-Ed pages in the nation.
They're dreadful and often even painful!
The Herald consistently wastes space running dreadfully dull and predictable Mary Sanchez pieces from the K.C. Star, so often which are either myopic pro-amnesty or "victim" pieces.
If I see her name, I turn the page, since I've read it before -many times.
Guardian Politics Weekly podcast: Housing benefit and the 'Highland clearance' of London
Will the coalition adhere to its plans to cut housing benefit - potentially displacing hundreds of thousands of poorer people?
BBC's U.K. Politics homepage http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/politics/