Letter: A freeze in benefits would be counterproductive

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your article 'Benefits targeted in drive to limit spending' (6 October) suggests that the Treasury sees cutting benefit increases or freezing benefits as the 'simple solution' to the public spending 'problem'.

It may be simple; but it would also be widely seen as punitive and counter-productive. Between 1979 and 1988/89, official figures show that while average incomes after housing costs increased by more than 30 per cent in real terms, the incomes of the bottom 10 per cent fell by some 6 per cent. Is the Government seriously considering adding to this dismal record by cutting or freezing benefits which Peter Lilley, the Secretary of State for Social Security, described proudly the other day as providing 'one of the most comprehensive and secure safety nets in the (European) Community'?

The Government is concerned that consumers are not spending enough. One truism about people on low incomes is that they spend their money, rather than saving it - they have to, to survive. Failing to protect the poor at a time of economic crisis does not make economic sense either.

It is scarcely credible that the Government would choose the week of the Conservative Party conference to take a decision that would so comprehensively contradict its manifesto promise that 'we will continue to care for those in need and work to establish a society that is generous, as well as prosperous'.

Yours sincerely,

FRAN BENNETT

Director

Child Poverty Action Group

London, EC1

6 October

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