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Nick Clegg gets it right (for once) – universal benefits must go

Tom Winnifrith
Wednesday 26 September 2012

Life is pretty grim when Nick Clegg is the party leader who is closest to getting it right on benefits. But well done to him for saying that rich pensioners should not get free TV licenses, bus passes and winter fuel allowances. Of course he does not go far enough but it is a start.

Just a reminder. The UK will have the biggest budget deficit in the EU next year. For all the talk of wicked Tory cuts we are hurtling towards a situation where our state finances are in a worse state than those of Spain, France, Italy etc. We hide a lot of our national debt off balance sheet via PFI schemes but even ignoring this (and the amount stuck into the banks) our debt to GDP ratio was 65.7% at the end of July 2012. The deficit is now 11% of GDP. Do your maths… at 90% you are technically beyond redemption. We now spend more servicing our debt than we do on defence.

And so it is obvious to everyone with half a brain cell that cuts need to be made. Clearly David Cameron does not have half a brain cell as he will today re-affirm his commitment to maintaining foreign aid spending. More private jets for African dictators all round…

That my father (income after tax thanks largely to a generous State pension c £33,000) can expect a taxpayer funded bus pass, TV license etc when most folks earn far less than that and then pay tax is clearly preposterous. Equally it is ludicrous that the mother of my daughter Olivia ( household comprising two partners in City Law firms, must be earning £300,000 a year) can – and does – pick up child benefit. So go for it Clegg, you are on the right lines.

As it happens I would scrap child benefit altogether. Why the hell should folk be subsidised to make a lifestyle choice? Some people will never have kids ( through choice or because they cannot) yet they must pony up to those who opt to contribute to global overpopulation. Child benefit is costly to administer. Scrap it at once. If folks with kids are poor the ever generous welfare system will look after them. Of course we should also scrap the TV license. Again it is costly to administer. If we insist on subsidising the BBC then the Government should just pony up instead of running a separate poll tax which merely serves to create more jobs for state-funded pen pushers.

That such a timid suggestion from Clegg faces any opposition at all shows just how deluded most folks are about what a mess the finances of the British state are. The good ship Britain is rapidly approaching that iceberg at full speed but let’s just party on regardless.

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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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