Tuesday, 6 July 2010
Housing benefits vs commuting
I believe in the welfare state and want to protect it. But when I read comments by Karen Buck, Labour's MP for Westminster North, saying that the Coalition Government's proposed cap on housing benefit will "lead to social cleansing on an unprecedented scale, with poorer people shipped out in large numbers to the outskirts" I am a little dumbfounded. I work in Westminster and earn a good (though not immense) salary. My wife-to-be is a school teacher -our family has two professional salaries. And yet we can barely afford to live in a small terraced house, in the town of Rugby - some 85 miles away. I spend 3 hours hours commuting daily, at great expense, to London. What I resent is the argument that housing benefit ought to help people on low incomes live in expensive areas at a time when the fiscal deficit means there is less money available for public spending. I'm sure I would love to live within walking distance of my place of work. But I simply cannot afford it. I cannot even afford to live in the outer boroughs to which Ms Buck and others believe the Government's reforms will consigned people in a "mass exodus". Surely there are higher priorities for our money than ensuring that lower-income people live in some of the most expensive post-codes in England, if not Europe. It's amusing that recent mentions by Government ministers of Norman Tebbit's "get on your bike" to find work argument causes such outrage. I get on my train every day for three hours so that I can work in a suitable job.