Current Issues Channel

Beyond benefits - a new approach to poverty

  • Policy area: Welfare

 

Speakers:

Prof Philip Booth, Editorial Director, IEA;

Janet Daley, Columnist, Sunday Telegraph;

Baron Glasman of Stoke Newington and of Stamford Hill, Senior Lecturer in Political Theory, London Guildhall University;

Chris Goulden, Head of Poverty Team, Policy and Research, Joseph Rowntree Foundation; 

Kristian Niemietz, Poverty Research Fellow, IEA

For the last generation, governments tried to deal with the problem of poverty through income transfers. This manifested itself especially during the period from 1997 to 2010 when there were huge increases in benefits paid to less-well-off households. By 2010, government spending as a proportion of national income had risen to over 50% and the extent of redistribution through the welfare system was as great in the UK as in Sweden. However, all parties have tended to ignore the crucial role of living costs in reducing poverty. Real incomes are determined by both incomes and prices. In particular, the poverty lobby is almost absent from any discussions about how government regulation raises living costs for the poor by raising house prices, food costs, energy bills, childcare costs and the prices of cigarettes and alcohol. This is despite the fact that it is clear that housing and food prices, in particular, are a long way out of line with those in similar countries in Europe.

This panel discussion will launch the final publication from the IEA’s poverty project Redefining the Poverty Debate – Why a War on Markets is No Substitute for a War on Poverty. In this publication, Kristian Niemietz shows how the UK is an outlier in terms of its high level of living costs. He also shows how changes to government policy could not only dramatically reduce living costs but also reduce taxation as a result of lower levels of transfer payments. Our panellists will discuss questions such as:

  1. Should UK governments expand or rein in transfer payments to the less-well-off?

  2. How should the tax and benefits system be reformed?

  3. Should the government refocus policy by pursuing radical liberalisation to reduce the cost of housing and other goods and services disproportionately consumed by the less-well-off?

  4. Should the poverty industry re-examine its campaigning to become like the Anti-Corn-Law League of the nineteenth century - a movement focused on how government raises the cost of living of the poor to benefit the better off?