Cut in benefits cap to £20,000 is the right policy outside London

Morning View
Morning View
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The benefits cap will be reduced in Northern Ireland and all areas outside London today.

The cap is a limit on the overall benefits that a household can receive in any one year.

There was no cap at all anywhere in the UK until 2010, when the coalition government introduced a £26,000 a year limit.

It was a policy driven by the Conservatives, but was so popular with the general public that the other main parties at Westminster gave their assent to it (or put up minimal resistance).

Millions of people on modest wages, perhaps barely above the minimum wage, had not even known that some families were getting as much as £26,000 on benefits – equivalent to a pre tax income of £34,000 a year, a sum that many working families can only dream of. Many workers were horrified by such excessive sums.

The Tories decided to cut the cap to £20,000 outside London, which is still equivalent to a pre-tax income of almost £30,000.

Northern Ireland had no cap at all in the early years of the Great Britain cap, because Sinn Fein blocked it. Now the deals to secure power-sharing have led to the higher cap in the Province, now set to drop.

Jim Allister MLA once asked an Assembly question that revealed that 6,600 people were being paid more than the £26k cap, many of them in republican strongholds such as West Belfast.

There is widespread public support for a free health service and a generous welfare system. No mainstream political voice is suggesting an end to either of those. But people across the UK have been outraged by the sums of money that some families have been earning on benefits.

This lower cap is the right policy for all areas outside London, including Northern Ireland.