An Unnecessary Role

embracing false choices

The Coalition is getting London wrong

with 2 comments

Politically, this government is a fairly robust one. The Prime Minister is deeply in love with a job that is fitting him better with every month that passes. The Liberal Democrats know they face certain destruction were a mid term election to occur. And successful Labour Party attacks are few in number and limited in scope, usually quarantined around a suitable Lib Dem whipping boy or non-Cameroon stooge. Beneath the headlines though, the coalition shows signs that they are simply getting it wrong, especially when it comes to London.

As well trailed in the media last year, the government’s changes to the housing benefit (which don’t kick in for current tenants until January) could see 82,000 households forced to move to cheaper areas. Forget the moral argument about whether or not it is right for someone to rent property in an expensive area, or the benefits or otherwise of ensuring that our communities are not ghettoised between rich and poor. We cannot know what chaos will be caused by thousands of families moving across London, with the concomitant pressure on schools and other infrastructure. These are problems that will not arise to the same extent in other areas of the country and are easy to alleviate by ensuring the cap is adjusted for the relative costs of different areas of the country.

Meanwhile, the pupil premium has been introduced to great fanfare (not least from enthusiastic Lib Dems for whom it represents the sunny uplands of power made flesh – “Look, a real life manifesto pledge we have delivered. And it’s not even mad.”) Additional funding to every school according to how many deprived pupils they have, paid at a flat rate of £430 per pupil. What could be wrong with that? Well, if you’ve read the previous paragraph you may detect a pattern. £430 doesn’t go as far in London as it does in other areas of the country (just as houses are more expensive, staffing costs are higher, transport is more pricey, cider is £4.00 A PINT! etc). That’s not even getting into the discussion about whether London needs even money to address a shortage of primary school places (but here’s a clue: it does). Again, a simple adjustment for the higher costs would solve these problems (and might even be cost neutral were the rate adjusted correctly).

Two flagship polices, the Conservative’s drive to radically reform the welfare system and one of the few concrete Liberal Democrat policy achievements in government, both fundamentally broken simply because things are more expensive in London. You don’t need to be a policy specialist to have anticipated that. Their negligence on this point means that these policies are deeply unfair on London and the people who live there.

To win or retain power, a political party needs both a moral argument and a competence argument. The former plays a part in building the case for why a government of a particular colour is a good, desirable thing. The latter, though, can torpedo a party before the campaign even begins. Some of their policies in London may indicate that this coalition simply isn’t up to the job.


Written by samelliot

June 5, 2011 at 10:44 pm

Posted in Finance, London

2 Responses

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  1. […] the benefits system, but with these reforms the coalition appears to be making the same mistakes I highlighted over housing benefit and pupil premium. Assuming that Government knows that costs of labour, property and other resources vary across the […]

  2. […] posted a little while ago about the risk to London posed by the lack of regional variation in the way Government funding is […]

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