CHARLES GRAHAM - This time we must accept the cap fits

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I CERTAINLY don’t agree with every austerity measure this Government is taking, nor some of the gut-wrenching concessions it is still making to those who could afford to spend more.

For instance, how can it be right that while redundancies within the Ministry of Defence back room are largely voluntary, those among the brave service personnel who put their lives on the line for their country are compulsory?

I think the term “grotesquely unfair” coined by the Defence Select Committee this week just about sums that one up.

But I really do think that a £26,000-a-year cap on household benefit pay-outs is perfectly reasonable and that those trying to sink this bid to reduce Britain’s colossal welfare bill in these straitened times, while well-intentioned, have got it wrong.

After all £26,000 is the average national wage. It is a salary that millions of long and hard-working citizens can only dream about. And that includes couples with copious amounts of children.

We have one of the most generous welfare systems in the world. And there is a strong argument that in some areas of it, it is so generous that it disincentivises people to work. It is also proving increasingly unaffordable in the present climate.

The trouble is that governments only ever seem to get round to trying to streamline the system when they themselves are short of cash - which is usually the same time that there is a shortage of jobs towards which to shove benefits claimants.

But this cap proposal isn’t so much about forcing spongers into a barren jobs market as forcing those coining sizeable amounts of money from the taxpayer to live within their means. Promises have been made to create a safety net ensuring that no-one will go homeless, particularly children, and when most of us are struggling to make ends meet that should be good enough.

A millionaire Tory telling us we are all in it together doesn’t go down well. Folk like that will never go short.

But even as far as your average British family is concerned, £26,000 a year should be perfectly manageable for everyone.