£25 billion of welfare cuts: thinking the unthinkable…or the unelectable?

Andrew Harrop

This morning George Osborne has promised to slash spending after the next election by £25 billion, with the bulk of the savings to come from the social security budget. The news comes the day after the Prime Minister promised to protect the state pension ‘triple lock’ in the next parliament.

Fabian Society research shows that these two promises could only be introduced simultaneously through savage cuts to the rest of the welfare budget, which would make changes in this parliament seem mild by comparison. Such cuts, while technically feasible, would bring suffering to millions of low and middle income households, especially children and disabled people. It is hard to see how any party could win an election afterwards: £25 billion of welfare cuts is political suicide.

The chancellor suggested that he would first look at scrapping housing benefit for under 25s before considering means testing universal entitlements. Yet neither of these proposals would save anything like the money he would need to find – both policies would realise around £2 billion pounds a year.

To save anything like £25 billion it would be necessary to make sweeping cuts to entitlements for children and disabled people, as the table illustrates.

Benefit cuts required to save £25 billion while keeping the state pension ‘triple lock’

Pounds (billion)
Scrap housing benefit for under 25s 2
Means test winter fuel payment and free TV licence 2
Extend current 1 per cent cap on most benefits to 2017/18 1
Full means testing of child benefit and stop it at 16 5
Scrap benefit entitlements for more than 2 children 3
Reverse all means tested benefit increases for children in the last decade 4
Tax disability benefits 1
Give attendance allowance to fewer pensioners 2
Means test all disability benefits 6

Source: 2030 Vision: the final report of the Fabian Commission on Future Spending Choices, Fabian Society, 2013


  1. shikira

    Too many bees in the Queen’s nest has led to this horrific deficit – the shape and colour of deathly Swastika certainty. What the national wealth is really being spent on is the sizeable ‘second-in-chief’ government administrators and free perks of the main political bodies, not just the massive pension pots of the EU members: all of which are on heinous salaries – the civil service would give their best arm to earn. No one in in or outside of the public sector in any doubt at all about how the cash that is flowing in favour of the richest, and where it is the nation are waking in their billions; at least 70% of total population, who are gradually becoming intolerant and agitated and voting UKIP.

    Likely the case that UKIP will also un-deliver their promises of a ‘fairer’ society, yet at least the ball is rolling and heading straight in the right direction of extreme capitalist ideals and ready to bulldoze it. It should not be the case that philosophers should rule a civilized democracy, unless they are uniquely adverse to it, or fundamentally crazy!.

    The fanatical cuts to the welfare budget utterly unforgivable if you carefully consider that the UK has swindled off so much its best industry in the last few decades, and all jobs for the unskilled/semi skilled taken by those who don’t have a clue about their employment rights, but happy to be earning a basic wage. I shall not elaborate here for the fact that I could write volumes of my knowledge base on the subject matter.

    The British holocaust has arrived, if the poorest in our society are going to yet again be hit by despicable welfare cuts – the tabloids earning their good crust reporting this nasty-nuff of it!. Why make financial priority on road expansion and high speed rail networks in such times of so-called austerity when there are food banks the weight and size of triple-Dubai, sprigging its disease like killer weed across healthy plantation.
    Fungal fibres are thus weaving the cultural fabric of civility and democracy and therefore best if the government simply behead anyone and everyone deemed as a burden on the state!.

    My own life tarnished and plagued by childhood atrocities – I have fought hard to not only survive my abusers at the age of 2 – 14 yet thrive beyond them, and still figuring out my course in life – dependent on disability benefits since the past few years of my adult life. I am just 41; articulate; intelligent, well spoken, resourceful and creative and physically very beautiful. No matter of these character traits, I know that I am in the marginalized majority with no hope of getting out of it. I wish to contribute to society by becoming my own person, independent of welfare hand-outs, and lavishing (imagined wealth) on those who are rightly deserving of it. However, having worked in so many low skilled jobs, and bullied torrentially by those who have wrongly envied me for my abilities or looks – placed me in a trap of what now?. Employers are not wanting to employ those with clinical depression and bouts of major anxiety, and the choice is either get rich or die trying.

    Perhaps I should be beheaded by the top earning elite who deem me a burden to the state?. I was once part of landed gentry in the Norman Conquest, so the loss of this fortune makes me nothing more or less important than a royalist defector, and where the gallows await my already demised whereabouts!.

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