Mark Wadsworth

This is a spare 'blog in case my main 'blog at markwadsworth.blogspot.com isn't working

More two-sided economics :-)

There was a further pleasant surprise in today’s Evening Standard:

From the Red Corner: Schools in central London could be left with “ghost classrooms” with no pupils because of a crackdown on housing benefit. Shadow work and pensions minister, Karen Buck [a woman who actually looks like her own caricature], warned [sic] schools in Westminster and other inner London boroughs could face funding crises if pupil numbers slump. Westminster council admits that its primary schools could lose 1,540 pupils or nearly 260 per school year.

Yadda, yadda, blah, shroud, wave etc.

Housing Benefit is one of the most horrendous benefits, being a subsidy to land ownership (i.e. more or less the opposite of LVT*), but even assuming we need to have it, for political reasons, why does everybody assume that the status quo is ‘normal’? What if twenty years ago the government had simply capped it at £50 per person per week or something and not indexed it for inflation? Then the ‘hard pressed families’ who are now being ‘ethnically cleansed’ wouldn’t be where they are in the first place.

Luckily, there’s a breath of fresh air from the Blue Corner: Cllr Philippa Roe, Westminster’s strategic finance chief said the figures were based on all pupils whose families would be affected by the caps – not those expected to have to move. She said the higher figures did not take into account other families who could move into properties vacated because of the caps, pupils who would move home but stay at the same school and outer-borough pupils. “It does not mean we are going to have lots of empty desks,” she said.

Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg, Labour leader on Westminster council, claimed some schools could see cuts in funding, which is based on pupil numbers, and be forced to sack teachers*. But Cllr Roe said many schools were already oversubscribed. The limits of £400-a-week for a four-bedroom home, £340 for a three-bedroom home, £290 for a two-bedroom home and £250 for a one-bedroom home already apply to new housing benefit claimants and will come into force for families already receiving the payments in January.

* As a Land Value Taxer, I’ve had it up to here with tales of Poor Widows In Mansions Being Forced To Downsize (none of them would be forced to actually sell up, by very definition, as the LVT on any home would always be less than the potential rental income therefrom) and all this wailing about ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘mixed communities’ is water off a duck’s back, frankly. The result of caps on Housing Benefit will be that overall rent levels for non-HB claimants fall slightly, which is surely A Good Thing?

** Presumably, if there is a mass upheaval and pupils really shift to schools in cheaper suburbs, the better teachers will have no prob’s moving jobs? They might even find it more convenient for travel.

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