(This is the text of my latest Opinion column first published in the Brighton Argus on Friday 17th July 2015)
It has been a tactic of successive governments to announce, or at least to leak, that something extreme would be implemented, only for a more ‘moderate’ proposal to be brought forward, to the relief of many.
Had the moderate proposal been the only one discussed, it would have caused consternation, not relief.
In its Budget last week, the government did this regarding housing benefit. An extreme measure was trailed: to restrict housing benefit entitlement for all under 25s. In the event, many sighed with relief when it was announced that just those aged between 18 and 21 would not be entitled to get support for their housing costs.
One third of all homeless people are already aged under 25. When young people are denied housing benefit, where will they live? How many more will end up sleeping on the streets of Brighton and Hove?
The Budget will also have a dire impact on families: the benefit cap for a family is to be reduced to £385 from £500 per week. £385 will be the maximum a family will be able to claim, including for their rent.
The reality is that the average rent for a two bed property in Brighton and Hove is £315 per week. That leaves just £70 for a family to live on, for food, heat, clothes, entertainment, television licence, emergencies, and so on.
That is not living. It’s hardly surviving. It will cause terribly personal distress and additional financial pressures on local authorities as a result of family breakdowns and increased homelessness. It is desperate news for some of our poorest households who are already struggling.