One of the biggest problems a government has to face when in power is bureaucratic inertia, wher change, assuming it comes at all is slow and often impeded by civil servants unhappy with a direction that such changes are going in. It was in Yes Minister I believe that the hapless Minister described the civil service as ‘the enemy’ whilst the opposition was merely that, the opposition. So it comes as no surprise that Ian Duncan Smith is finding the going tough with entrenched civil service opposition on welfare reform, it being riddled with liberal leftists with odd ideas about just whose money pays for the benefits system…
Senior civil servants have been accused of blocking the Government’s flagship plans to overhaul Britain’s welfare system.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is reported to have been shocked at reports that the Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood is sceptical about the shake-up.
Treasury officials are also said to be dragging their feet over the proposals, which will simplify welfare payments by introducing a new universal credit.
Friends of Mr Duncan Smith fear that Whitehall reluctance to push through the reforms could put them at risk.
One Whitehall source said: ‘Treasury officials are the real problem. They are a law unto themselves and do what they please.’
Chancellor George Osborne is reported to have wanted Mr Duncan Smith sacked in the recent reshuffle. But he refused to be moved and is determined to see through the reforms.
The Universal Credit, due to be introduced next year, will replace six benefits including jobseeker’s allowance and housing benefit.
The very simplification of the system no doubt worries the mandarins who judge success by the size of their departments, as opposed to ‘industry’ which judges by efficiency and profits. No doubt there will be some shedding of jobs as six systems merge into one and the union dominated public services will hate that. Yet there appears to be no doubt in the public’s mind that such reforms are necessary as a recent survey, conducted by NatCen, a social research group appears to show.
Benefits for the unemployed are supposed to be a safety net, not a comfort zone, it simply is not acceptable for anyone who is unemployed to be better off owing to benefits than someone who works, not even at the minimum wage level. For those who are sick and elderly I can accept a comfort zone, provided of course that the sick really are sick and not just re-assigned from unemployment statistics to lower the figures.
So all in all I consider the reforms by Ian Duncan Smith as a good start and whilst I expect teething troubles, some unforeseen, some by enemy action he has my support in this. Where he doesn’t go far enough though is denying benefits to those who have come here as immigrants. If you were not born here or paid into the system then the system should be denied to you, a bond of a certain amount ought to be laid down by immigrants before citizenship is allowed cover in health and benefits, paid back (without interest) after 10 years, no-one coming here should get a free ride, you pay in, work or leave.
Sadly that’s not going to happen under any mainstream government, at least not at the next general election.
In the meantime the government struggle on against the enemy who don’t have inconvenient elections and changes of personnel to put up with, it still remains to be seen who will win…