Thursday, October 28, 2010

Housing Benefit: the facts

1. The vast majority of housing benefit claimants are either pensioners, disabled people, those caring for a relative or hardworking people on low incomes, and only 1 in 8 people who receive housing benefit is unemployed.

2. The cap on housing benefits - which the discussion in the media has focused on - saves £65 million. This is less than 3% of the total which is being cut from housing benefits.

3. The government plans to save £100 million by cutting housing benefits payments by 10% for people who are unemployed for more than one year.

4. The amount paid in housing benefits will be reduced in every area of the country, not just in London. You can see the reductions in your local area here.

5. The government has acknowledged that there will be negative consequences as a result of these changes - for example on homelessness, overcrowding, and child poverty - no proposals have been put forward for mitigating these effects.

6. A survey of landlords who currently rent properties to housing benefit tenants in London showed that very few would be prepared to lower their rents when changes to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) come into effect next year. Using the results from the survey, London Councils can estimate that more than 82,000 households – well over a quarter of a million people - could be priced out of their homes and the communities where they live and work.

7. The government is cutting housing-related support for people at risk of homelessness, even though a national evaluation has estimated that the £1.6bn spent annually on housing-related support through the Supporting People programme generates savings of £3.41bn to the public purse – by intervening earlier to prevent more severe problems arising, helping people live more independently and avoiding more costly acute services.

8. Single homeless people use around four times more acute hospital services than the general population, costing at least £85 million in total per year, according to Department of Health. That figure is likely to rise sharply if support is withdrawn to prevent homelessness. Research also shows that having stable accommodation reduces the risk of re-offending by a fifth.

9. Over time, the government is planning to reduce the value of Local Housing Allowance by raising it more slowly than inflation. This will reduce the amount of affordable housing every year.

10. In June, the government scrapped regulations which would have given tenants greater protection against being exploited by bad landlords.

11. A government impact assessment on the changes has concluded 936,960 of the 939,220 local housing allowance claimants will lose out. The average loss will be £12 per week.


Government ministers will only talk about the benefits cap, hence David Cameron making the claim that "If you are prepared to pay £20,000 in housing benefit, there is no reason why anyone should be left without a home." But this is just one small element of a set of cuts which will take money away from pensioners, carers and people in low paid jobs, as well as people who are out of work.

Everyone who has looked in detail at the cumulative effects of these cuts - from the Citizens Advice Bureaux to charities which work with homeless people, to Lib Dem housing experts to the Mayor of London - have concluded that they will be a disaster which will increase homelessness.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How welfare cuts hammer low paid workers

In 2008, David Cameron declared that the abolition of the 10p tax rate for low paid workers was "punishing the low paid". Vince Cable called for "fully costed proposals on how to make those on low incomes better off" and Nick Clegg said that "this was a matter of principles - remember them?"

They were right to do so. So how have they been putting these fine words into action since they took power in May?

The abolition of the 10p tax rate left some low paid workers worse off by up to £4.46 per week. Households with two adults, each earning less than £18,000 per year, were, therefore, hit by up to £8.92 per week - a substantial sum for people in low paid work at a time when the cost of living was rising, as Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg pointed out.

So let's use that as an uncontentious baseline measure for measuring the impact of policies on low income workers. Everyone now agrees that the abolition of the 10p tax rate was a shameful attack on the working poor. Instead of the overheated political rhetoric about social cleansing, or competing graphs from government departments and research institutes, let's just compare any recent policies which the government has announced, and compare them in magnitude to the impact of abolishing the 10p tax rate.

In the Comprehensive Spending Review, George Osborne announced that the percentage of childcare costs covered by tax credits would be reduced from 80% to 70%. A technical sounding change, which a casual listener might presume would have minimal impact.

This will cost a low paid worker with two children up to £30 per week, or rather more than three times as much as the maximum impact of the abolition of the 10p tax rate.

Osborne also announced that after one year, people would lose their entitlement to contributions- based Employment and Support Allowance. Probably fewer than 1 in 100 people know what contributions-based Employment and Support Allowance is. How bad could that be?

It means that a family where one adult is in low paid work and the other is currently receiving Employment and Support Allowance could lose up to £91.40 per week, or rather more than ten times as much as the maximum impact of the abolition of the 10p tax rate. Even if they are then able to claim Jobseekers' Allowance instead, they will lose more than £30 per week.

What of housing benefit? Inside Housing magazine calculates that 936,960 of the 939,220 local housing allowance claimants will lose out by an average of £12 per week - rising to £22 per week in London. The average loss from technical sounding things like "setting rents based on the 30th percentile of private sector rents rather than the median" is more than one and a half times the maximum amount which the abolition of the 10p tax rate cost any family. That's the average - some low paid workers will lose far more.


That's just the initial impact (it is possible to calculate the effect of other cuts using the same measure). It doesn't consider what happens to the low paid lone parent who has to try to find an extra £30 per week to pay for childcare, and is forced to quit her job as a result. It doesn't consider the health impacts where one person is trying to hold down a low paid full time job and care for their sick partner, when they suddenly have to manage with £90 per week less. Or someone who has to find £12 a week or more in extra rent every week out of the wages of their minimum wage job, and who ends up getting into debt and getting evicted.

But even if you just consider those policies in cash terms, without making any further assumptions, then it shows that the government has already, within its first six months in office, announced three separate policies, each of which hit low income workers far harder than the abolition of the 10p tax rate.

Friday, October 22, 2010

How to win a landslide

Lots to think about after yesterday's elections, but one absolutely brilliant piece of news was Mike Rowley getting elected to Oxford City Council. Mike is one of the nicest and most hard-working people that anyone could ever has as a councillor, and he won with an absolute landslide. In May 2010, Labour got 43%, which at the time was seen as a fantastic result. Yesterday, Labour got an amazing 59%.

The ward where he was standing, Barton and Sandhills, was won by the Liberal Democrats in 2004, and held by them in 2006 and 2008 (by just 4 votes!) In the general election in 2010, Labour won it back after a strong campaign and higher turnout amongst lower income supporters.

This by-election was caused by the resignation of the Lib Dem councillor, Patrick Murray, who has moved to another area to get a job. Patrick was, by some distance, the most effective Lib Dem councillor in Oxford in recent years. He was an extremely effective campaigner, and as a councillor who put aside party politics in the council chamber to work closely with Labour on trying to help solve the city's housing crisis. He'll be a tough act to follow, and people in Barton and Sandhills have been lucky in recent years that the fierce political competition in the city of Oxford has given them some great local champions.

In some ways, this by-election marks the changing of a political cycle. Between 2004 and 2008, the Lib Dems did well with effective local campaigns which harnessed the opposition to the Labour government. In 2010 and for the foreseeable future, political fortunes have changed and Labour is on the up.

But there's another way of looking at it. Over the past decade, people in Barton and Sandhills have been remarkably consistent in their views. The majority wanted decent, principled, hard-working left-wingers as their local representatives. Back in 2002, they voted overwhelmingly for Labour's Alex Hollingsworth. Then, for a few years, it was the Lib Dems who were best able to demonstrate that they were in touch with the views and values of the majority.

Over the past few years since the Lib Dems first won in Barton and Sandhills, Labour has listened, learned, worked hard to win back people's trust. And the result is that yesterday we won in a landslide.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

How Labour can win in the South

A new pamphlet was released this week about why Labour lost the support of people in Southern England, and what it needs to do to win them back. It is written by a former MP, Giles Radice, and the former head of policy planning under Gordon Brown, Patrick Diamond.

This pamphlet is the follow up to research that was done after the 1992 election, which argued that Labour needed to modernise and stand up for individual freedom, against public and private vested interests, to show that the party could be on the side of those who wanted to get on, making responsible tax and spending commitments and promising to manage capitalism more efficiently than the Conservatives.

The 2010 remix has pages and pages about how immigration and welfare reform lost Labour support, the inevitable opinion polls designed to prove that the public agree with the authors, and concludes with eight "key messages". Some of these are statements of the obvious such as "Labour can only create a better society by winning and retaining power", or "Labour should try and recruit new people to stand as councillors". Some are rather more dubious, but you can kind of see what they are getting at. I sort of agree that "the 2010 leadership election showed the power and potential of community organising to reform and revitalise Labour", it is worth remembering that the candidate who devoted most resources to community organising actually lost, despite having the backing of the media, most MPs and the most money.

But the majority of "key messages" from the pamphlet are where the authors pretend that their own interests and opinions are representative of voters in Southern England. So we get recommendations that Labour must back the referendum on the Alternative Vote whole heartedly (although most voters in the South oppose it), and face up to issues that concern voters such as "the role of the state after the financial crisis" - a subject which, in fact, interests very few voters in Southern England, but which fascinates policy wonks who write pamphlets.

Perhaps the most glaring weakness of the "Southern Discomfort" pamphlet (although there are many) is that it doesn't actually look at where Labour did well in Southern England, and what we could perhaps learn from these successful campaigns.

Labour holds ten seats in the South East, Eastern and South West regions. In two of these seats, Labour's share of the vote increased - Oxford East where the Labour vote increased by 6.5%, and Luton North where it increased by 0.7%.

So let's compare Diamond and Radice's analysis of how Labour should win the support of people in Southern England with how Labour actually did so.

[It could, of course, be argued that these seats are not representative of Southern England. While there is some truth in that, it is worth noting that Labour did particularly well in Oxford East amongst the groups of voters who Diamond and Radice think that we need to focus on. Support for Labour amongst C1C2 voters was around 50%, and amongst DE voters over 60%. Winning support amongst these voters was essential in a constituency with 15,000 students at the height of "Cleggmania"].

Diamond and Radice argue that Labour needs to debate openly contentious issues such as immigration and welfare reform. In Oxford East, neither of these issues featured on a single leaflet, and I can't imagine that Kelvin Hopkins in Luton - a left-wing critic of the government's policies on both issues - did so either. Ditto for the role of the state after the financial crisis. Just because people raise particular issues in a focus group or agree with a statement in an opinion poll doesn't mean that it is sensible to campaign on these issues.

Here, instead, are some key lessons about how to win in the South and increase support for Labour, from the people who actually managed it:

1. Good candidates - both Andrew Smith and Kelvin Hopkins were personally popular, decent, principled MPs, prepared to vote against their party when they thought it was wrong on issues from renewal of Trident to the Gurkhas. While some MPs of all parties abused the expenses system to enrich themselves, Andrew has lived on Blackbird Leys council estate for more than thirty years, and Kelvin commutes from Luton to London daily, just like many of his constituents.

2. Hard work. Astonishingly, the Diamond/Radice pamphlet doesn't devote a single sentence to local campaigning or the importance of talking to voters in winning elections. Their analysis is entirely from the perspective of national policy-making. One key thing about active, local campaigning is that it reduces the influence of the media. Rather than trying to "triangulate" on pet topics of the right-wing press like immigration and welfare reform, personal contact with voters allows Labour to find out which issues really matter to people, and to take up and help sort out problems. If people find out about what Labour is up to in their area from their local MP or a Labour volunteer, they are going to be much more supportive than if they read the Daily Mail's view about what Labour's priorities are.

3. Oppose savage cuts. In Oxford, Labour attacked the Lib Dems for their support for savage cuts, and for their leader's idea of breaking up the NHS. This was fantastically successful in persuading people to vote Labour. It is not fashionable to say this, but I believe that in 2010, Labour would have won more support if we had been tougher in our opposition to savage cuts, rather than listening to wealthy journalists whining about how we needed to show "credibility" by pledging to cut services.

4. Improve and extend public services. Extremely few people are interested in discussing "the role of the state after the financial crisis". But extending recycling schemes so that people can recycle plastic, setting up playschemes for children, letting children swim for free and older people use public transport for free - all examples of concrete ideas for reform of public services which people put forwards, and which Labour won support by delivering. Even in safe Tory seats like Salisbury, people are receptive to policies like the Living Wage or universal childcare. (It's well worth reading the excellent article by our candidate in Salisbury).

5. Understand and call for action where the market is failing to deliver. On housing, childcare and social care for the elderly, Labour's failure to act meant that there was too little provision, and that which was available was often poor quality and too expensive. Local campaigners knew that parasites like bad landlords were wrecking communities in southern England, but government ministers blithely dismissed concerns and were more worried about the mythical dangers of "over-regulation".

In terms of political strategy, Labour should always be particularly focused on where the market is failing to deliver, because the instincts of the Tories and Liberal Democrats will always be to go against public opinion and refuse, on principle, to act to correct market failure. This allows for popular campaigns where the overwhelming majority back, say, tough regulations on slum landlords or paying a living wage to cleaners, but the right wing parties refuse to act.


This is only the starting point for a discussion about Labour's strategy over the next five years. Just because opposition to savage cuts, good candidates, improving and expanding public services and hard work were the keys to Labour's success in southern England in 2010 doesn't mean that they are a panacea for the next election.

For example, the advantage of having excellent, independent-minded local candidates is magnified when they have a team of staff and communications paid for by the taxpayer. In most Southern seats, our candidates won't have that advantage next time. On the other side of Luton, local candidate Gavin Shuker, who grew up in the town, managed to pull off one of the biggest shocks of the election - our new candidates should try to learn from his experience.

We need to develop new ways to get more activists involved in local campaigning, whether through community organising or other means, and build on Project Game Plan (silly name, great idea) to get more resources into local organising.

On policy, we need to gather new ideas about where the market is failing, and which public services need to be expanded or improved.

And there will be issues and challenges which are crucial in other parts of the South which didn't apply in Oxford or Luton.

But I really think we will learn a lot more from the campaigns and the approach of people like Andrew Smith and Kelvin Hopkins than from pamphlets like "Southern Discomfort". We need to recognise that Labour fought the 2010 election with official policies in favour of a points based immigration system, videos at airports of immigrants being deported, locking up immigrant children and trying to starve those without children to force them to leave the country, unemployment benefits which had been halved since the 1980s, medical assessments by private companies to force sick people off incapacity benefits, and £44 billion in spending cuts including bigger cuts in the NHS than the Tories were planning. Rather than helping to win us public support by addressing their concerns, our best results were found where our candidates didn't mention these absolutely abhorrent and shameful policies and instead gave people reasons to be proud to support Labour.

I don't know quite what more than this Diamond and Radice were thinking Labour could propose in terms of addressing immigration, welfare reform or a "credible" approach to reducing the deficit, as they don't deign to put forward any specific proposals. But we've already tried the approach set out in "Southern Discomfort", and that's why we only hold 10 seats in Southern England outside of London.

Excellent advice for Labour's economic team

This is absolutely brilliant:

"1. It is a common criticism levelled at politicians of the modern stripe that they have "never had to make a payroll" - ie, that they have no real understanding of how the economy works, because they have never been in a situation of managing a business through tough times.

2. This is also true of Alan Johnson MP, as it is of the Chancellor, George Osborne. However, unlike George Osborne, Alan Johnson has experienced something that's quite like managing a business which needs to make its payroll in a recession, which is called "being poor".

3. When Alan Johnson found himself married with two children at the age of 18, with an income inadequate to his expenses, he did not put his family on an "austerity" programme. Instead, he got a job in the post office, attracted to it by the possibility of well-paid overtime.

4. In general, as anyone who has actually found their household in a situation of having too much debt knows, it's really not usually all that possible to get yourself out of a hole by reducing your expenditure. In general, when you've got an actually serious debt problem, the interest bill is already larger than your discretionary expenses, and so "economising", while it will slow down the rate at which the problem gets worse, will not make it get better.

5. Households which successfully get out of debt, in general, do it by increasing their household income - either by having a non-working partner take on a job, or by doing overtime, or by changing career to something better paid. That's what Alan Johnson did, when he was on his uppers.

Unlike the rather sickening lectures Margaret Thatcher used to give about housewives and their clever domestic scrimping and saving, this is an analogy between the finances of a single household and those of a country which actually works. When you have a debt/GDP ratio which is too high, this is nearly always because the GDP is too low and needs to be increased, not because the debt has got too high and needs to be decreased. If you have a debt/GDP problem that can't be made better by investment and growth, then it's likely that you have a debt/GDP problem that can't be made better at all - ie, you need to default, a situation which the UK is not even nearly in.

A few months in, I'd start showing my man a few straightforward back of the envelope calculations, and maybe even chucking a few debt dynamics finger exercises into his speeches, because I have a canny idea that the man in number 11 is not necessarily in command of his numbers and might be shown up if put in a position of having to do sums in his head (I am guessing that former postmen who have worked with the Byzantine schedule of overtime rates might be quite good at this, plus I seem to remember that Johnson as Work & Pensions Minister did a pretty good number on David Willetts over "the pension crisis", which was a similar combat of neoliberal platitudes versus arithmetic). But the key priority would be to a) get the central intuition lodged into his backbone, and b) set up a sensible and comprehensible counter-narrative to all this dreadful New Austerian nonsense about "money in the kitty" and so on."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How student fees hit the middle class hardest

A key part of the argument for raising student fees is that, as one Tory activist put it, "our universities need extra funding and they are not going to get it from the taxpayer".

This argument relies on a very strange definition of "taxpayer". The Browne report recommends that people earning more than £21,000 should pay a lot more to help fund universities. By definition, these people are all taxpayers. So, in fact, the universities are going to get extra funding from the taxpayer.

So why do supporters of higher fees argue that universities "aren't going to get extra funding from the taxpayer", when the opposite is true? The most common explanation given, over the past ten years that I've heard these arguments, is that middle class people will not support rises in general taxation to pay for higher education.

This leads to a very strange situation. In order to avoid making middle class people annoyed at having to pay extra taxes, the government is proposing to ensure that the cost of funding this particular public service falls disproportionately on middle class families, through a complicated and bureaucratic system of fees and loans.

We see this in other areas, too. In order to prevent council tax from rising, many councils have a policy instof increasing the fees which they charge for services like childcare, parking or care for the elderly. Again, this hits hardest people who earn or who have savings just above the threshold to qualify for help.

Politicians who promise to keep taxes down pretend that they are doing so to support middle class people. But what they give with one hand in lower taxes, they take back several times over with fees, charges and cuts . And you end up with the absurd situation where people who go to university and go on to earn £100,000 end up paying less then those who go to university and end up earning less than half that, or where families earning £80,000 get more in benefits than those earning £50,000.

Friday, October 08, 2010

AJ was the right choice for Shadow Chancellor

From the archives, 2nd September 2010:

"When he is elected leader, Ed Miliband will come under the most terrific pressure from the opposition, media and Blairites over his supposedly radical and left-wing policies. If David were elected leader, the main pressure which he would face would be to win over and enthuse the people who supported his brother or Ed Balls. To unite the Labour Party, Ed Miliband would need to appeal to the Right, David to the Left. "

8th October 2010: Leftie supporters of Ed Miliband get v v cross when he appoints Alan Johnson as Shadow Chancellor.

From the Shadow Cabinet appointments, it looks like Labour is planning strong opposition to government policies on the NHS, defence and police cuts - areas where they have put combative ministers who vocally disagree with what the government is planning. They seem more likely to try to find compromises on justice & prisons and welfare reform.

I understand why lefties wanted Ed Balls as Shadow Chancellor and his economic policy adopted 100% . But Balls doesn't come across particularly well to the public, and opponents of his policy within the Labour Party would have briefed journalists that they thought his policies were not credible. The resulting civil war would only have helped the Tories.

We know the problems when economic policy is seen as being under the sole control of the Chancellor - to win the economic argument and defeat the Tory cuts, we need an economic policy which the whole Cabinet - including Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper - are involved in developing and can sign up to. Johnson can be a persuasive public advocate for Labour's alternative and the comparisons between his life experience and George Osborne's help reinforce the message.

And in developing their alternative to George Osborne's savage cuts, Labour should pay close attention to this brilliant article from our new Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the fantastic Angela Eagle:

"The so-called deficit ‘emergency' was ironically caused not by profligate government spending but by a failure of the market-based international banking system and the triumph of unbridled greed amongst the super rich. David Cameron's immediate excuse to act was the deficit generated by the previous Labour government to stabilise our banks and successfully mitigate the social effects of the global recession which followed the credit crunch. He did so by launching an assault on the post-war state settlement more extreme than anything Mrs Thatcher's most swivel-eyed fanatics could have fantasised about. The theatrically named ‘emergency budget' began this process and the October spending review will continue it.

That there was no electoral mandate to introduce the largest public expenditure cuts in British peacetime history is clear. Those who voted Liberal Democrat had a right to assume that their chosen party would stick with the economic policy clearly set out in their manifesto at the election. Like Labour's, this emphasised the danger of cutting the deficit too far or too fast while economic recovery was still fragile. In fact it was this economic position which achieved majority endorsement once the votes were counted."

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Our priority should be universal free childcare, not child benefit

One reason why lefties are concerned about George Osborne's plans to restrict child benefit is that they think it will be the beginning of the end of universal benefits, and that once the principle has been conceded, it will lead to the dismantling of the NHS, state pension etc etc.

But if we want to build support for universal benefits, we shouldn't just react to the Tories and oppose every cut that they make. 4 in 5 Labour voters agree with the principle of taking child benefits from the richest families. Lining up on the other side to them won't help save the universal welfare state.

Instead, we need to understand the priorities of middle and lower income people in Britain, and how a welfare state built on the principles of universality can best help them. In some cases, that will mean accepting that some services or benefits which were universal should be removed or means-tested. But in other cases it will mean setting up new universal services or benefits.

Families have born the brunt of the Tory cuts - new schools & playgrounds scrapped, playschemes cut, Child Trust Fund scrapped, free school meals extension scrapped, and now Child Benefit cut.

So how could a universal welfare state best support families?

Lesley Smith:

"A week of slightly synthetic outrage has been fun. And watching the Tories slug it out even more so. But if we want to even things up for the children of single parents, child benefit isn’t the most effective spanner in the box. If we wanted to cease punishing single parents and their children and get them out to work we’d make child care costs properly tax deductible. And not through a tax credit system seemingly devised with the sole purpose of preventing people qualifying or deterring them from finding out."

Nick Pearce:

"The other big policy bet that we need to make is to prioritise the extension of free and affordable childcare. Where such childcare exists - chiefly in the Nordic countries - women have employment rates that are commensurate with those of men. True, employment in these countries can be quite gender segregated, but if more women work, inequality overall falls and the risk of children growing up in poverty is substantially mitigated."

Childcare subsidies help increase productivity and economic activity (parents have to take fewer days off / leave work early when childcare arrangements fall through). They also increase employment opportunities - cost of childcare is a major barrier for parents in getting a job. The cost of childcare is also a huge proportion of income for many middle and lower income families.

In addition, the current system is broken. Many families can't afford the cost of childcare, many childcare providers (especially in the voluntary sector) are at risk of collapsing, and there is low takeup of existing subsidies.

Thirdly, it is a way of modernising the welfare state. The Beveridge settlement was based on women staying at home and looking after children. A 21st century welfare state can't be based on the prejudices of last century liberals.

So the existing means-tested system doesn't work, introducing a universal system would save middle income families thousands and help unemployed people get jobs, and it is a reform which would recognise the realities of the modern world. Perfect conditions for the introduction of a universal system, just as the NHS addressed the failings of the means-tested healthcare system back in 1948.

If we made childcare free or capped the costs so that it was genuinely affordable, it would make a massive difference to most families. It would be a powerful alternative to the Coalition's attempts to make families bear the vast bulk of the costs of the economic crisis. It would help people into work and boost our economy.

But as the greatest champion of universalism said, "the language of priorities is the religion of socialism". If we're going to put forward substantial and popular extensions to the welfare state, then we have to accept that we won't be able to spend £1 billion on benefits for the richest 15% of families.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Labour should improve the child benefit cuts, not oppose them

This time next week, Ed Miliband will make his debut as Leader of the Opposition at Prime Minister's Questions.

I wonder if the child benefit fiasco presents an opportunity.

Over the next week, Labour's team could do a quick piece of policy work refining the government's proposals to protect the people who are hit hardest by Osborne's proposals and remove the anomalies where some families on £80,000 will get the benefits and others on £45,000 won't.

Then at PMQs, Ed could ask Cameron whether he would agree to alter his policies to protect middle earners by accepting Labour's improvements. If Cameron refuses, he looks like he is putting party politics ahead of sensible policies and doing what's right for middle income families. If he accepts, it makes it much harder to claim that Labour is just opposing every cut and won't set out alternatives.

I think this is a better option politically than pledging to reverse these cuts and flying the flag for universalism. Come 2015 or whenever the next election is, Labour isn't going to go into the election pledging to spend £1 billion on giving cash handouts to the richest 15% of families, and in a fortnight there are £12 billion in welfare cuts plus untold billions more in cutting public services which will be higher priorities to oppose and pledge to reverse.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Shorter George Osborne welfare cuts

Poorly designed child benefit cuts which take away benefits for some families on £44,000 while giving them to other families on £86,000: £1 billion.

Giving party activists something to cheer by cutting benefits for homeless families in temporary accommodation: £150 million

Not having to explain where the other £13 billion in welfare cuts is going to fall: priceless.

There are some things money can't buy. For spinning savage cuts to the poorest, there's Tory Party conference.