LETTER : The return of the Poor Law Ill-effects of regional benefits

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PETER LILLEY'S "regional" benefit plans ("Tories plan 'regional dole rates' ", 9 July) echo the local Poor Law system wound up in Britain in the early 1930s. This system failed primarily because deprived local councils, unable to raise sufficient local rates to prevent benefit cuts, were forced into the dilemma of failing to protect the local unemployed or breaking the law by not setting a rate. Central government intervened because it considered marginal redistribution for equalisation purposes preferable to the unmanageable territorial politics that followed from Poor Law local inequalities.

If Lilley is serious about devolving benefit policy and administration rather than finding convenient cuts, German decentralisation - where implementation is the responsibility of "regional" Lander within a federal financial equalisation framework between rich and poor - would be a far more appropriate model.

Chris Lamb

Bath, Avon

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