Iain Duncan SmithLast year I got a call from someone at DWP. The call went roughly as follows:

DWP: We’ve got a story for you. Figures show that the benefit cap is working and it hasn’t even been brought in yet.

Me: Really? How do they do that?

DWP: Well the number of people who have come off benefits since we announced the policy is XXX thousand. [I forget the actual number the person used.]

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One of the biggest announcements from the Budget was one that may not happen, and if it does, is unlikely to be implemented for several years. George Osborne told parliament:

If in the next spending review we maintain the same rate of reductions in departmental spending as we have done in this review, we would need to make savings in welfare of £10bn by 2016.

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UPDATE: I have now added in housing benefit – apologies for the omission, and thanks to Paul Treloar for pointing it out.

The brains over at the Treasury are currently trying to work out if there is a way to cut billions of pounds of public spending by freezing benefits in a way that would also be palatable to most voters. As we reported last week, it looks like pensions will be exempted from any freeze to avoid accusations of punishing older people. But what else is up for grabs, and how much could be saved?

Here is a table of each of the most significant benefits paid out by DWP and how much each one costs. I’ve done one column for how much was spent last year, one for how much is forecast to be spent next year, factoring in various policy changes, and one for how much they would cost next year if there were no spending cuts and they were allowed to rise with 5.2 per cent inflation. Read more

Reading the front page of the Daily Mail today, you could be forgiven for thinking that the government’s new system for assessing who should get incapacity benefits had been a roaring success.

Just one in 14 claimants has been found unfit to work, according to stats from DWP, suggesting the new test has rooted out an incredible number of people who were never entitled to claim IB in the first place.

Well, not really. As Paul Gregg, a professor at Bristol university who helped design the new system has pointed out on his blog, there are a number of problems with this interpretation. Read more

We revealed this morning that Iain Duncan Smith is less steadfast than he might appear on when the controversial changes to women’s state pension might take effect. Under current plans in the government’s pensions bill, it will gradually rise to 65 by 2018 and 66 in 2020.

The bill is back in the Commons today, where the work and pensions secretary will say:

We’re heading towards an unprecedented burden being placed on the next generation who will have to pay for their parent’s retirement on top of paying for the national debt.  It’s not fair. This bill will address the realities of our increasing longevity by sharing the costs between the generations.

We will stand by the 2018 and 2020 timetable.

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