LIKE GREECE which has been allowed to abdicate its financial responsibilities for too long, welfare spending was allowed to spiral out of control in Britain before David Cameron set about reversing the 38 per cent increase which was presided over by the last Labour government.
Yet, while the next tranche of cuts has already sparked street protests at the weekend and accusations from Labour leadership contender Andy Burnham that the Tories are guilty of “frightening vulnerable people”, some perspective is required.
Spending on benefits will still, according to the independent Office for Budget Responsibility, equate to 12.7 per cent of all public spending by the end of the decade and it would be remiss of the Government not to take affirmative action to counter the culture of welfare dependency that was allowed to become ingrained in working class communities across Yorkshire and elsewhere.
People of working age, and in good health, should not be allowed to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance and other tax credits ad infinitum – it has been proved to be a false economy that not only costs the public purse but discourages individuals from taking greater responsibility for their lives.
Mr Cameron, who has shown commendable resolution on this issue, is right when he says that Britain needs “to move from a low wage, high tax, high welfare society to a higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare society”. He will only win the argument on welfare if it can be demonstrated to the out-of-work that they will be better off financially if they are in regular employment.
It will not be easy – many of the record number of jobs created since 2010 have been part-time in nature and the employment market is still skewed by low-paid migrant workers.
However Mr Cameron has a historic opportunity to reshape the welfare system so it not only encourages employment but protects society’s most vulnerable. It is a battle that must be won if Britain is to start living within its means.
Financial fair play: Standing up for food producers
DESPITE the rather convoluted title, the post of Groceries Code Adjudicator was created for the very best of reasons; namely to intervene on behalf of those independent food producers left at the mercy of the pricing policies pursued by the major supermarkets. Yet the fact that one in five suppliers say they are reluctant to raise issues with the regulator suggests the terms of reference do need reviewing if the role is to command the confidence of the agricultural industry.
Suppliers should be able to utilise the expertise of an ombudsman if contracts are being reneged – or payment delayed. There should also be an expectation that complaints are resolved swiftly; delays and obfuscation could mean the difference between a farmer staying in business or not because their financial margins are so tight.
The belief that the major supermarkets are exerting undue influence will not be dispelled by analysis of the cases lodged with the Adjudicator. Less than one per cent involved Aldi and Lidl, two of the no-frills discounters having such an impact on the retail sector. In contrast 54 per cent of complaints featured Tesco – significantly more than Yorkshire-based Morrisons and Asda which were the subject of 15 and 14 per cent of all referrals respectively. Given the challenges facing the established supermarkets, there is a strong case for the Adjudicator’s remit being extended to cover all food businesses, and specifically dairy farmers, in order to uphold financial fair play.
Code of conduct: Road laws mnust be enforced
EVEN THOUGH most motorists have an inflated opinion of their driving skills, most will have been guilty at some point of “lane hogging”. Yet, while these instances were, in all probability, temporary aberrations, such inconsiderate behaviour is on the rise and West Yorkshire Police should be commended for the landmark prosecution of a van driver who refused to budge from the middle lane of the M62.
Although ignorance is not an offence, standards will only improve if the police enforce the Highway Code – the middle and outside lanes of motorway are designated for overtaking purposes only and the growing tendency of drivers to go on autopilot has led to impatient individuals putting the safety of all road users at risk by undertaking, a dangerous manoeuvre at the best of times. This is another reminder that enforcement of existing laws is critical if drivers, and “lane hoggers” in particular, are to become more considerate.