Thursday, November 19, 2009

Eradicating child poverty and debt reduction.. together?

As expected, the Queen's Speech was an electioneering speech designed to "flush out" the Tories, or more correctly force the Tories into positions where Labour could then paint them as heartless baby-eating bastards that make Jeffrey Dahmer look like the sort of nice chap you'd take home to meet your mother for a spot of tea.

The coverage is pretty general on this point, and it's always a good sign of a Government losing its way when the media agrees with the lines that the Opposition pushes. However, what I find strange, and feel free to correct me if I've missed it, but I'm yet to see anyone saying - in response to the bit of the speech which says the "government will continue to enshrine in law its commitment to abolish child poverty by 2020" - what happens if you don't achieve it?

It's a bit like having legislation that makes it law to "halve the deficit" in four years. What's happens when events mean that you can't? They cannot write into the law that it cannot be repealed - at least I don't think they can. So surely, whichever political party is running the Government in the future, will just break the laws by repealing it if they don't look like they're going to achieve it, right?

The phrase "rod for their own back" springs to mind.

Isn't there also a stark contradiction between the two goals anyway? Achieving the child poverty target requires money that the deficit reduction target precludes - not to mention that the Government has been an abject failure in achieving its first target on the child poverty anyway.

In 1998, Gordon Brown pledged to halve the 3.4 million children living it what the Government measured as "poverty" to 1.7 million by 2010. In February this year the figure in poverty was 2.9 million, and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation along with the Institute for Fiscal Studies said that it would cost £4.2 billion alone for the Government to meet their 2010 target.

That's 4.2 billion extra spending during a time when the Government is also saying its going to be legislatively committed to halving the budget deficit, and it doesn't account for the extra spending that they would then need to meet their 2020 target. Its not only pie in the sky, its a complete contradiction in policy.

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