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Scrap Child Benefit altogether – the Mail and Osborne have their maths wrong

Tom Winnifrith
Wednesday 24 October 2012

Child Benefit should be scrapped altogether. It is costly, a bureaucratic mess and misguided. I say this as the Daily mail bleats about £36.6 million a year being sent as child benefit to kids living abroad and as chancellor Osborne plans to scrap the benefit for those earning £50,000 a year or more. This is all tinkering.

Let’s start with basic principles. The world is overpopulated. We keep on going on about how folks in the third world should have fewer kids yet across the EU we provide economic incentives (in countries like Spain they are vast) to have more kids. Is this because we want more white people? How about a bit of honesty here? Let’s apply an equal standard to all and offer no financial incentives to anyone to contribute to global over population.

Secondly this is a tax/benefit policy which directly shifts cash from one section of society (those who opt not to have kids/cannot have kids) to those who opt to reproduce. Tax & benefits should be about the provision of basic services not about giving incentives to one lifestyle option over another. The state is telling us that it would rather we were heterosexual breeders than, say, confirmed bachelors. That should not be its call.

And now to practicalities. The Mail is obsessed with the idea that if we stop doling out cash to dirty foreigners it will solve the deficit. This is baloney. It is pretence designed to appeal to the prejudices of Middle England and sell more newspaper. It is a shameful deceit. Saving £36 million here or even £11 billion on scrapping our foreign aid to despots programme will only start to rectify our budget imbalance. I am not opposing scrapping both but the Mail must, at some stage, start to let its readers in Middle England know that they too must see cuts.

To balance the budget it would help if we scrapped the two waste of money programmes above. It would assist if we somehow slashed the budget for welfare scroungers, stopped the NHS pissing away cash on apps to teach 13 year olds about sex ( just give them a tour of the BBC if that is what you want), etc. But to balance the books you need to make far harder choices. The most obvious one of which is to realign the age at which you can draw a pension with life expectancy ( as the state pension was originally set up to be) , i.e. increase the retirement age to 82. We might also close down 1/3 of our Universities.

In the real world, the UK could balance its books and one day will have to. But the Mail and all the lying politicians will first have to accept that it is not just scroungers and dirty foreigners who will suffer but that we ALL need to accept downward revisions in what we expect the State to provide.

As to Child Benefit? In order to be a net contributor to UK state finances today a couple needs to earn more than £50,000 a year – something only 12% of Scots and not much more than a quarter of the English manage. Such households (if they are not old or flush with pink pounds) will now not get child benefit. The savings are measly. And in creating an extra test to receive this benefit you create extra bureaucracy. Do you think that with a reduced child benefits bill the number of civil servants employed on administering the scheme will

a) go down
b) stay the same
c) go up

My money is on an answer which is not a).

So how about you just scrap child benefits altogether? Fire every civil servant involved in administering this benefits mess. A double saving. If you earn £40,000 a year and lose £20 a week well tough. Welcome to austerity Britain.

If you are genuinely poor then income support and the other myriad of benefits can be adjusted accordingly. That would keep the Guardian happy. Personally I would make no such adjustment or at least state that for babies born more than nine months after D-Day there would be no such adjustment made.

If you want to go have stacks of kids that is your call but why on earth should the (near bankrupt) State subsidise your choice about what you do with your body?

Is it so wrong to expect citizens to take personal financial responsibility for decisions they choose to make?

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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