Osborne's new welfare measures are anything but fair

Regardless of the actual levels of need, the poor will lose out under the Chancellor's cap.

Big or small, the Chancellor’s spending review announcements on social security were anything but fair.

Take the his most significant plan, to impose a 'super-cap' on the majority of working-age benefits. While Osborne has confirmed that out-of-work benefits will not be included in the cap, other key sources of support such as housing benefit, disability benefits and in-work support for those on low-incomes will all be subject to a nominal limit regardless of the actual levels of need.

So what does this mean in real-terms? If demand exceeds the (artificially capped) supply, benefits will have to be spread more thinly or eligibility restricted in other ways. Low-income families and individuals, then, will have to bear the cost of rising rents, ill-health, low pay and cuts to hours, all of which, of course, are factors beyond their control. It’s hard to see the fairness in that.

On a smaller scale, the announcement that those who lose their jobs will not be eligible for support until seven days have elapsed is mean-spirited in the extreme. While the sums may not seem huge (a couple would lose £64 a week as a result), this move can only cause more hardship in already hard times. How the new rule will work once Universal Credit (UC) is introduced is unclear: will claimants be able to access any of their UC award for the first seven days once all their benefits are rolled up into one? Denying claimants all sources of support in such a situation hardly seems fair either.

Look to the Treasury’s distributional analysis and the real story of the spending review is exposed. While the Chancellor made much of the fact that "those with the broadest shoulders are bearing the greatest burden", the government’s charts (2.D and 2.E) show that those with the slimmest are being made to carry an almost equal amount of the pain. Fairness, then, is clearly very much in the eye of the beholder…

A residential development in the London borough of Tower Hamlets. A recent study has shown that 42 per cent of children in Tower Hamlets live in poverty, making it the worst area of the UK for child poverty. Photograph: Getty Images.

Alison Garnham is chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group

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If there’s no booze or naked women, what’s the point of being a footballer?

Peter Crouch came out with one of the wittiest football lines. When asked what he thought he would have been but for football, he replied: “A virgin.”

At a professional league ground near you, the following conversation will be taking place. After an excellent morning training session, in which the players all worked hard, and didn’t wind up the assistant coach they all hate, or cut the crotch out of the new trousers belonging to the reserve goalie, the captain or some senior player will go into the manager’s office.

“Hi, gaffer. Just thought I’d let you know that we’ve booked the Salvation Hall. They’ll leave the table-tennis tables in place, so we’ll probably have a few games, as it’s the players’ Christmas party, OK?”

“FECKING CHRISTMAS PARTY!? I TOLD YOU NO CHRISTMAS PARTIES THIS YEAR. NOT AFTER LAST YEAR. GERROUT . . .”

So the captain has to cancel the booking – which was actually at the Salvation Go Go Gentlemen’s Club on the high street, plus the Saucy Sporty Strippers, who specialise in naked table tennis.

One of the attractions for youths, when they dream of being a footballer or a pop star, is not just imagining themselves number one in the Prem or number one in the hit parade, but all the girls who’ll be clambering for them. Young, thrusting politicians have similar fantasies. Alas, it doesn’t always work out.

Today, we have all these foreign managers and foreign players coming here, not pinching our women (they’re too busy for that), but bringing foreign customs about diet and drink and no sex at half-time. Rotters, ruining the simple pleasures of our brave British lads which they’ve enjoyed for over a century.

The tabloids recently went all pious when poor old Wayne Rooney was seen standing around drinking till the early hours at the England team hotel after their win over Scotland. He’d apparently been invited to a wedding that happened to be going on there. What I can’t understand is: why join a wedding party for total strangers? Nothing more boring than someone else’s wedding. Why didn’t he stay in the bar and get smashed?

Even odder was the behaviour of two other England stars, Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson. They made a 220-mile round trip from their hotel in Hertfordshire to visit a strip club, For Your Eyes Only, in Bournemouth. Bournemouth! Don’t they have naked women in Herts? I thought one of the points of having all these millions – and a vast office staff employed by your agent – is that anything you want gets fixed for you. Why couldn’t dancing girls have been shuttled into another hotel down the road? Or even to the lads’ own hotel, dressed as French maids?

In the years when I travelled with the Spurs team, it was quite common in provincial towns, after a Saturday game, for players to pick up girls at a local club and share them out.

Like top pop stars, top clubs have fixers who can sort out most problems, and pleasures, as well as smart solicitors and willing police superintendents to clear up the mess afterwards.

The England players had a night off, so they weren’t breaking any rules, even though they were going to play Spain 48 hours later. It sounds like off-the-cuff, spontaneous, home-made fun. In Wayne’s case, he probably thought he was doing good, being approachable, as England captain.

Quite why the other two went to Bournemouth was eventually revealed by one of the tabloids. It is Lallana’s home town. He obviously said to Jordan Henderson, “Hey Hendo, I know a cool club. They always look after me. Quick, jump into my Bentley . . .”

They spent only two hours at the club. Henderson drank water. Lallana had a beer. Don’t call that much of a night out.

In the days of Jimmy Greaves, Tony Adams, Roy Keane, or Gazza in his pomp, they’d have been paralytic. It was common for players to arrive for training still drunk, not having been to bed.

Peter Crouch, the former England player, 6ft 7in, now on the fringes at Stoke, came out with one of the wittiest football lines. When asked what he thought he would have been but for football, he replied: “A virgin.”

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 01 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Age of outrage