This is the planned spending for next year; Welfare spending will be 17% of total spending. £117 billion is the percentage in cash terms and it will only fall by a £1 billion at the end of this Parliament. The coalition has introduced pension, education and health care reform (even though these budgets are set to increase by 2015) to try and control these budgets.
Welfare, too, has seen reforms. Next year, the welfare cap will be introduced and no household will be able to claim over £26,000 a year. Still, it is not enough. In some regions, £26,000 is more than the average income for a working household; but the government seems to be unwilling to regionalise the cap – which is inevitable, to be honest.
Without more reform and, yes, cuts, the current welfare regime will risk becoming insolvent. This scenario would be much worse than the prospect of £10 billion cuts. Politicians, across all parties, need to have a mature debate and the public needs to join in, too.
It is an emotive subject and, of course, protests will occur. But refusal to address this problem now will result in further and more drastic action in the future. That is an outcome we should seek to avoid. We will be selling a false promise if we tell the public the welfare budget is fine and requires no reform.
If we take the populist approach, again, then the public will be horrified when we cut the welfare budget post 2015.