Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Welfare budget faces further cuts

The welfare budget faces further cuts after George Osborne's spending review

The Chancellor has announced more welfare reforms, including a fresh crackdown on benefit fraud, aimed at making £7 billion worth of cuts on top of previously announced savings of £11 billion.

The current "complex" system of means-tested working age benefits and tax credits will gradually be replaced by a Universal Credit that will "sharpen" work incentives and reduce fraud and error, Mr Osborne said.

But he pledged that low income families with children would be protected from the adverse effects of the "essential savings".

One way this would be achieved was through an increase in the child element of the Child Tax Credit by a further £30 in 2011-12 and £50 in 2012-13 above inflation, he said

He defended the decision to axe child benefit for high earners and scotched speculation that it would be scrapped for all children over 16.

The package of welfare reforms includes freezing the working tax credit for three years from next April, changing working tax credit eligibility and ending payment of the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance.

The Government announced welfare savings of £11 billion in June's emergency budget, so the total is now £18 billion a year by 2014/15.

A White Paper will soon be published by the Work and Pensions Department which will give details of £2 billion being set aside to fund the new Universal Credit. A new work programme is also being launched, offering personalised support for jobseekers with the greatest barriers to employment.

The DWP's administration budget will also be reduced by 35% and its core budget reduced by 26% in real terms by 2014/15 by cutting corporate overheads, reducing the costs of benefit processing and replacing "wasteful and ineffective" welfare to work programmes.

The department said it will stop issuing National Insurance cards to customers and send letters instead, saving the taxpayer £1 million a year, stop issuing a remittance advice with every weekly payment of a back to work credit or training premium, saving up to £3 million a year, and change how Jobcentre Plus measures performance, cancelling at least two target management contracts, with an annual saving of at least £1.2 million.

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