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TheCritique Archives

by Martin Odoni

NOTE: I nearly wrote this article back in June, but in the end I decided to wait until evidence was in the public domain of post-Work-Assessment-Test deaths.

Seifeddine Rezgui is the name of a killer. On the 26th of June 2015, armed with a Kalashnikov, he attacked a hotel in Port El Kantaoui, on the north-east coast of Tunisia. His frenzied attack, committed on behalf of the extremist terror group, Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), left thirty-eight people dead. Thirty of them were British citizens, whose memory was lovingly saluted three days later, when the House of Commons observed a minute’s silence. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, then ordered that a national minute of silence would be held on the 3rd of July, exactly one week after the attacks.

Iain Duncan-Smith is the name of a killer. Since becoming Secretary of State for Work &…

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manchester climate monthly

There is a “Manchester Leadership Forum”. Bet you didn’t know that, did you? But you can’t go to it, and when it runs workshops about creating a new “community strategy” those workshops are a) very poorly attended, and b) there are no minutes.

Oh, and how many members of the Leadership Forum got on it without having been ‘tapped on the shoulder’ by the Town Hall? Er, not a single one.

This is Manchester; we do things “differently” here.

Manchester City Council has six scrutiny committees. The meetings of those six committees are open to the public, and minuted (1). At the last Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee meeting a couple of councillors wanted to know more about this new “Manchester Leadership Forum.”

One of the members of the public who attended that meeting submitted a Freedom of Information Act request (2).  Her requests are in bold, what she got back is…

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A remarkable open letter to the vile Gove

‘Dear Mr Gove…’ An Open Letter to the UK Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove.

A tory calls out Cameron and Osborne:

Ramesh Patel: Finally! Exposed! The Deficit Myth! So, David Cameron When Are You Going to Apologise?.


Back in April, the SKWAWKBOX started to expose how the government, via the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) and David Cameron’s pet project the ‘Behavioural Insights Team’ (BIT), colloquially known as the Nudge Unit, was coercing benefit claimants to take an unvalidated, unscientific psychometric test devised by a US ‘torture guru’ by threatening them with the loss of their benefits if they didn’t comply.

The government claimed that this test was ‘scientifically proven’, but the truth turned out to be very different. The questions used in this psych test were cherry-picked from a larger test issued by a US organisation (the VIA) – and had been used without permission, effectively stolen. Complaints were made to and by the British Psychological Society, and to a healthcare oversight body (the HCPC), leading to the investigation of a top DWP psychologist for approving the use of the ‘test’, and a Guardian article

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The Impact of a £20,000 Benefit Cap

Posted on September 15, 2013 by Gareth Morgan

“George Osborne is considering a further lowering of the amount households can receive in benefits as Tory MPs press him to reduce a newly-imposed cap by another £6,000.
A limit of £26,000 a year was imposed on claimants yesterday, but the Chancellor is facing calls to take a harder line from backbenchers who want it cut to £20,000 as part of a post-election assault on welfare spending.”

The Times, July 16th 2013

“Chancellor George Osborne is considering lowering the benefits cap by a further £6,000, one of his aides confirmed to Inside Housing today.
The Treasury will base a decision on whether to make the further cut depending on the effectiveness of the current benefit cap, which began its national roll-out on Monday, in reducing the welfare bill.”

Inside Housing July 17th 2013

I was surprised by how little reaction there was to the floating of this idea when it emerged in the summer. The existing cap will have caused distress to those 40,000, according to government estimates, households affected by it; many many more would be affected by such a reduction in the maximum amount of benefit, if this suggestion went ahead.

For the existing cap, I have modelled the effect on housing affordability of its introduction for every area in Great Britain, looking at a range of family sizes for zero to six children and using local rent figures for social and private housing in appropriate sized homes in each area. I did this for both the current benefit system and Universal Credit (Northern Ireland isn’t included in the tables as details of the Universal Credit scheme introduction there are still uncertain). You can download those tables from this site.

With that work as a basis, I have repeated the exercise to see what the effect of a £20,000 cap would be; and they would be devastating.

Firstly, let’s look at the current cap. Table 1 shows the effect of the current cap on different family types.

This table shows how much benefit without housing costs differently composed families are entitled to. You can see that as families grow larger they qualify, unsurprisingly, for more benefit. That means, assuming that they need this money entirely for all their non-housing related expenses, there is less potential benefit left for paying rent. Indeed a couple with 6 children is already capped, with £24.49 taken off their benefit before any rent is taken into account. A couple with 5 children will have a maximum of £41.53 from Housing Benefit, or £41.22 from Universal Credit, help towards their rent.

Table 2 shows what would happen with a £20,000 cap.

With this cap, a couple with 4 children will be over £8 a week short before they pay one penny in housing costs. The detailed tables show that a couple with 3 children, who will have just over £57 a week maximum help with their housing costs will not be able to find a 3 bedroom property anywhere in Great Britain for that amount, at LHA level or local social rent. A couple with 6 children would already be capped by almost £140 a week before they try to pay any rent.

I hope that if this outrageous suggestion reappears, and it may as party conference season starts this week, that the detailed tables, which map actual local housing costs for every local authority and LHA area, may help those who will be opposing it.

See Gareth Morgan’s welfare reform blog and papers at