To cap, or not to cap?

Is that the question that the nobler minister had in mind and answered too soon?

On the BBC Politics Show on Sunday 12th June, Lord Freud, being asked about the fairness of the cap said

“We’re looking at exceptional circumstances which some people may find themselves in and we’re going to be putting out arrangements for that later in the year …. Wherever we think that there’s something happening that is undesirable, and we’re looking very carefully at how to draw up those protections”

This seemed to be a recognition that a blunt cap could have some devastating effects on some families, in particular those with large families and high housing costs – which often go together.

Today though, the Guardian, with others, has reported that the Secretary of State and Prime Minister have restated the original proposal

“…. Duncan Smith denied there had been any U-turn.

“The benefit cap will restore fairness to the taxpayer and fairness to those who do the right thing on benefits,” he said. “The policy is unchanged. The £26,000 benefits cap remains.”

Duncan Smith’s comments were echoed by Downing Street, where a Number 10 spokesman confirmed that the policy was “unchanged” and the cap level was being kept.”

Other ministers have said, previously, that the government was looking at ways of easing the transition for families and providing assistance in hard cases, so the swift reaction may be more media than policy related.

Our modelling has shown that the cap makes it impossible to afford a four bedroom house, for an appropriate sized family, anywhere in the country, so my guess is that we will see, in the fullness of time and at an appropriate juncture, an adjustment, not an exemption, to the cap for some ‘exceptional circumstances’.

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