Sean Ash sets the record straight

Following my post on the story in the News of the World about a couple (Sean and Chloe Ash) who have been driven apart by the benefits system, someone has posted a reply in the name of Sean Ash, wanting to put the record straight. Of course, one cannot tell on the internet if someone is really who he says he is, but it reads to me like it really is Sean - read it and judge for yourself.

Given that the NOTW and ConservativeHome wanted to make this an illustration of the wisdom of Ian Duncan Smith's proposals, particularly with regard to the £20/week tax-break for married couples, the following comments by Sean seem significant:

"I was not fighting for married couples to get more money, I am not a greedy man and I am very religious and value life over money any day of the week."

"It [the reason Sean contacted NOTW] was more to do with married couples on sickness benefits looking to return to work being awarded low affordable housing.. not MORE money."

It's interesting that a member of the Murdoch stable has chosen to twist a story to favour a feeble Tory proposal, contradicting the views of the person whose story they were supposedly telling. This tells us something both about the propagandizing nature of the Murdoch press, and about the fragility of Rupert's relationship with Gordon.

Feeble NOTW/Tory spin

Well done to ConservativeHome for pointing out the story in today's News Of The World about the couple who are splitting up because they are financially better-off living apart.

Not so well done to both CH and the News of the Screws for their slant on this story. They both seem to think that this demonstrates (in the words of the Screws) the wisdom of "David Cameron's tax-break pledge to give married couples an extra £20 a week", or (in the more accurate words of CH) "the problem that Iain Duncan Smith's social justice report was attempting to begin to address".

So a £20/week tax-credit will make a difference to a couple who stand to lose £878/month if the man gets a job, will it? And is this related to whether they are married? Or would this couple face the same disadvantage if they were co-habiting? Is it only children of married couples who deserve to have their dad living at home?

Our broken welfare system needs a complete overhaul. A £20/week tax-credit to married couples is such an ineffectual and partial solution that it is an insult to anyone who genuinely cares about putting this right. It has nothing to do with a genuine desire to rebalance the system, and everything to do with appealing to traditionalists within the Tory party.

What does this story really tell us? Sean Ash is on disability benefit because of 'painful sciatica'. Chloe Ash is on disability benefit because of 'manic depression'. Between them, thanks to these debilitating medical conditions that have prevented them from taking employment of any kind and the generosity of the welfare system to non-workers, they have a disposable income of £1,702/month. That is £20,424/year. This puts their household income somewhere between the fifth and sixth decile in terms of income distribution (figures available for download from the ONS). In other words, around half of all households in the UK have a lower final income than Sean and Chloe. Not bad remuneration for doing nothing.

Now Sean has decided to take a job, his loss of benefits means that the household would be worse-off (£1,472/month) than if he stayed on disability. So they have split up, because, as Chloe says, staying together "meant my little boy would suffer". I bet their little boy is really glad that his mum and dad protected him from pain by splitting up.

And the answer to this is to give a £20/week tax break to married couples?

Fine those MPs who take advantage of their position

I've just picked up this story for Recess Monkey and also Opposition Greater Romania Party MP Corneliu Bichinet has come up with one of the most sensible and amusing policy plans for keeping Romanian MPs in check - and I am backing it for use in the UK. Mr Bichinet has proposed that all MPs are weighed at the start and the end of their tenure and taxed heavily if they have exceeded a weight limit as a way of curbing long and expensive lunches. Any that have put on more than 50kg would be judged guilty of cashing in on their position and would have to pay fines. He quoted as saying "Most of them are skinny when they are elected, and yet invariably at the end they turn into big fatties. MPs who put on 50kg should be punished because it shows they took advantage of their public position." Genius.

"A grateful electorate rather than free-thinking citizens"

Official government figures showed that more than seven million households are getting most of their income from government handouts. That is one in three households across Britain who is now dependent on the state for at least half its income. How on earth has this culture of dependency come about?

Gordon Brown (and successive governments before New Labour) have orchestrated a society that feels that relying on handouts is the better option compared with the reality of getting back in to work. The benefits system is now so generous you can not blame many people for “playing” the system. While the government might like to think that it is giving a leg up to those living in relative poverty in this country, it is actually keeping them there as it is the better and easier option for them.

Benefit chaos

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted that two of the government's three targets for reducing billions of pounds of fraud and error in the benefits system have been missed. For example, the housing benefit's rate of overpayment is up 13 per cent since 2002 with customer and official error accounting for the great bulk of the losses.

The huge number of fraud and error is caused by the complex benefit system which Gordon has created over the years.

Benefit system

According to the Telegraph, couples who pretend they are living apart to claim bigger benefit payments are costing the taxpayer more than £400m a year. It is estimated that up to 200,000 people were declaring themselves lone parents "fraudulently". This is the result of Gordon Brown's dysfunctional benefit system.