The dust is now settling on the announcement by the Government that there would be changes to the previously universal Child Benefit. The proposal – to remove this from anyone earning enough to put them in the 40% income tax band – sounded straightforward, and would save around a billion notes a year.
However, when put under the cosh, ministers gave every sign that the measure had not only not been thought through, but had not even been communicated to most of that same Government. And then, as if to try and apply sticking plaster to the now open wound, Young Dave started talking of tax breaks for married couples, which, like the Child Benefit wheeze, wasn’t in the Coalition agreement.
The removal of Child Benefit from those in the higher income bracket would penalise families where one parent worked. Where both worked, but each earned just less than the 40% tax threshold, the benefit would still be paid. Did Cameron and his Chancellor not pick this one up? Why didn’t they discuss it at a full Cabinet meeting, where there would have been the feedback that informs decision making?
And, of course, there was on this issue none of the fabled interaction with the Lib Dems that we are constantly being sold. It was a mess, and the backpedalling that Young Dave and his jolly good chaps have been indulging in since – when seen alongside his caving in on free school milk recently – suggest that he has taken on board none of the Thatcher steel.
This is over one billion quid a year. The target for the Coalition is to save 83 times that amount. Having made such a shambles of Child Benefit, what may be in store over rather larger amounts does not bear thinking about.
What price General Election 2012?