Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Lindy McDowell: Will votes hit back at Cheryl Cole and George Osborne?

Published 07/10/2010

It’s hard to say which has caused the most consternation this week.

Cheryl Cole cutting Gamu out of her final three for the X Factor or George Osborne swiping the family allowance from middle class earners.

But, although it may seem trivialising to compare the two, the real test of both decisions will be with the general public.

Osborne and his Coalition buddies are banking on a welfare shake-up which they claim will save the nation somewhere in the region of a cool £1bn. Any saving has to be welcomed. But in the working out of benefit reforms it’s important that those who are really in need aren’t left high and dry.

Taking child benefit from higher earners might seem like an obvious place to start. But some “higher earners” (among them single parents) may well end up much more harder hit that others.

And while it is absolutely right that you shouldn’t be able to scoop more if you are unemployed and on benefits than you would if you were out working, the clampdown should still make allowances for those in special circumstances.

It is undeniably, as Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith has said, bonkers to have people who are earning more than £50,000 receiving benefits. But it is even more bonkers to have people defrauding the system daily and getting away with it.

A trimming down of the bureaucracy is every bit as important as a trimming back on hand-outs. That, and a determination to identify the fraudsters and make them pay.

In life, as in X Factor, all people out there really want is fairness. Cheryl can make it up to Gamu. How does George Osborne make it up to those who have worked hard all their lives, who may have genuine need of the extra help that child benefit provides but who are now being told the only state handout they ever qualified for is about to be swiped from them?

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