Magazine article Public Finance

Another Think Coming

Magazine article Public Finance

Another Think Coming

Article excerpt

It's been a busy week for newish Work & Pensions Secretary John Hutton. After months of spin and hype, and years of trying to think the unthinkable, his department has finally published its green paper on welfare reform.

At its core are proposals to get 1 million incapacity benefit claimants into work, potentially saving the Exchequer £7bn a year.

A new benefit - the employment and support allowance - is being rolled out to replace IB, based on a two-tier eligibility system. There are also plans to get more lone parents and older workers into employment.

So far, so predictable - and relatively uncontroversial. Most of these 'something for something benefit reforms were rehearsed under previous incumbents at Richmond House.

There is little appetite at Number 10 for the more draconian welfare measures - such as time-limited benefits - that were being floated a while back. With a maj or backbench revolt over the Education Bill on the horizon, no-one wants any more high wire acts.

Which is not to say that implementing the IB reforms is going to be a shoo-in. The DWP is in the throes of losing 30,000 jobs, outsourcing Jobcentre Plus, shutting training programmes and possibly offshoring back-office tasks. …

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