There are a lot of media voices asking why the benefits bill is so high.. here is one, localised, answer.
I was at a meeting today where a lot of council people were talking about the impact of poverty on communities, and they studiously avoided mentioning this so I thought I would work it out myself.
These are the things you can’t get out of paying if you’re trying to live normally.
All sorts of benefits and tax credits are being cut, so this is what you have to earn to keep your head above water and not receive any help from the government. I have made no allowances for drinking, dancing, or fun of any kind. This is the bare minimum a family of 4 needs to keep it’s head above water.
Note I have made no allowance for any emergency fund, so the moment a family like this has a problem with its boiler, its car, flooding, or any other problem, it will sink into poverty.
For a family of four, living cautiously, 1 earner:
Rent (or current mortgage) on a 2 bed flat or house: £600+
Food & household goods for four people (buying carefully) £300
Insurance on home and possessions and employment: £150
Clothes & school uniform £50 (at most basic)
Pension for two: £150
Gas and electricity: £75
Council tax £110
Phone and internet: £40
Total cost (before tax): £1,700 or £20,400 a year (per household) (rough estimate after tax £26k)
Remember that if you have children and both of you work, you have to take childcare off this. So both people would need to be earning probably £19k each to break even.
Basically, if a company wants to employ a full time person on a living wage where they won’t have to draw housing benefit or any other benefit, they need to be paying £11.18 an hour. Minimum.
Companies in Luton only offer this sort of salary for a managerial or professional role.. there is pretty much no way that a person without a degree could earn enough money to raise a family here without being on benefits.
Basically the government is subsidising employers.. the majority of people in Luton cannot survive on their wages without asking for benefits.
I feel that this is the issue nobody is confronting. You can talk about “troubled families”, and continue to lambast the unemployed, but while the state has to subsidise companies to emply the majority of their workers, the GDP sums are never going to add up.