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Thursday, June 17, 2010 

The shape of cuts to come.

An 18-year-old I know, unemployed at the time, voted Conservative last month. When I asked the reasoning behind his vote, his first point was that they were going to get rid of all the illegal immigrants. His second was that they were going to do more for those like him unable to find any sort of work; I replied that Labour had already set-up a scheme which guaranteed either a job or training for those out of work for six months between the age 18 and 24, a period of time on the dole which he was fast approaching.

I don't know for certain whether it's anything to do with the Young Person's Guarantee, but I suspect his finding a place on a building site where he's worked for the last three weeks is almost certainly linked to one or more of the four employment schemes introduced by Labour which have been cancelled at a stroke today, under the justification that "they do not represent good value for money".

The actual money saved this year by cancelling these schemes is, according to the BBC, £500m. Whether there will be any actual saving from cutting the four job schemes is difficult to tell; clearly gone into the calculations is that for most people between 18 and 24, their national insurance contributions are so low as to mean that their jobseeker's allowance will only last for those six months after which they would have been offered training or a job. Others who would have been helped will instead be back on JSA, increasing the unemployment figures, not to mention increasing the amount spent on welfare.

These are in any case rather strange decisions by a government which campaigned so vigorously against what it claimed was the prospect of a tax on jobs. The new work and pensions secretary claimed in his initial interviews that "work makes you free", yet apparently is fine with leaving those currently unemployed with even less hope of finding a job than they had previously. It's also completely out of sync with the thoughts of Lawrence Mead, apparently an influence on the new government's thinking on the welfare state and a chief proponent of "workfare". Well, perhaps except for one of the aspects of his philosophy:

For difficult cases, such as fathers who do not work and fail to make child support payments or ex-prisoners on parole, the sanction for not working would be jail. "It's less controversial than it sounds. In my interviews with state officials [in the US] they did not blink about putting men in prison to enforce a work requirement. Putting welfare mothers to work in the 90s was much more controversial."

Except even that contradicts with the other new Tory thinking on crime as elucidated by Ken Clarke. Or maybe that's just another part of it: actual criminals out, the unemployed in?

Not of course that it was the Conservatives who were the face of these cuts, instead it was Danny Alexander and the Liberal Democrats, who I can't recall at any point suggested cuts to schemes such as these during their election campaign. And as for the 18-year-old man I know, almost certainly with a job thanks to the government he voted against, it will be just the first betrayal of his first participation in this glorious thing we call democracy.

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The new work and pensions secretary claimed in his initial interviews that "work makes you free"

And yet people still call it a right-wing government. Jawohl!

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