Cameron’s war on benefit fraud: the unanswered questions

Where will the savings go? And what about the £40bn lost to tax avoidance?

The coalition is living up to its "breakneck" reputation today with David Cameron launching a new crusade against benefit fraud. He's written an article for the Manchester Evening News that promises an "uncompromising" strategy for tackling the £5.2bn lost to fraud and error each year.

The crackdown comes at a crucial time for the coalition, not least because, as today's Times reports, ministers have been asked to review all proposed cuts following the fiasco over free school milk.

The big question remains: if significant savings are made (and it's a big if) where will the money go? Most ministers would like any savings to be claimed as cuts to overall spending, remembering George Osborne's promise that large reductions to the UK's £192bn welfare bill could mean less pain elsewhere.

But Iain Duncan Smith and his allies (including Nick Clegg) would like any savings to be used to fund his radical welfare reforms. Duncan Smith's mission to incentivise work comes with a large price tag. It involves either increasing payments to those in work or reducing benefits to those out of work or in the lowest-paid jobs -- widening inequality in the short term.

Then there's the coalition's conspicuous failure to launch a comparable war on tax avoidance, which costs the UK some £40bn a year. If saving money really is the priority, it would make a lot more sense to start there.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The NS Podcast #230: It's (New) Party Time

The New Statesman podcast.

Helen is joined by Anoosh to consider whether a new political party would have any chance of success in the UK. Then they discuss the TV shows everyone really likes to watch but doesn't admit to and analyse why the quality of Don't Tell The Bride has declined. Finally, a bumper You Asked Us section including listener questions on social care, punching Nazis, the Tory economic agenda and more.

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Further reading:

The NS centenary debate from 2013 - did the left win the twentieth century?

Meet the Ivanka Voter by Anne Helen Petersen on Buzzfeed.

Anoosh on the EDL.

Why is Love Island so Tory?

How Don't Tell the Bride lost its spark

Take Me Out and the failures of feminism by Alan White.