The Budget didn’t have very much to say about benefits, and what it did say cannot be taken as gospel. The main figures are based in reduced spending commitments, which for the next two years are as follows:
- restriction on migrants’ access to benefits £120m
- helping people to work £270m
- recovering debt £150m
- restricted uprating of Child Benefit £445m
- restricted uprating of Housing Benefit £65m
- Universal Credit £55m
- recovery of Tax Credits £370m
- Real Time Information for Tax Credits £445m
With the main exception of savings from upratings, most of those figures look like aspirations (or wishful guesses) rather than genuine savings.
As for the supposed cap on ‘welfare’ spending, the main sanction is that a Chancellor who exceeds it will have to explain why to Parliament. It would be a very feeble Chancellor who found it difficult to explain why a range of benefits condemned by the Council of Europe as ‘manifestly inadequate’ shouldn’t have more spent on them.