Balls: Labour will not threaten child benefit

Ed Balls, in his speech to conference, quashed speculation that tax credits and child benefit could be cut by the Labour government. Two weeks ago, the Observer splashed news that, “Labour [is] set to target middle class benefits.” It went on:

“A senior cabinet aide said measures whereby top earners lose out in order to benefit the poor were proving popular and might even be needed to shore up Labour’s core vote, overriding past concerns over upsetting home counties voters”

Polling by YouGov and reported by Andrew Sparrow found that there was net support of 38 per cent for means testing child benefit.

But in his speech, Balls said:

“We are not going to cut back Sure Start or tax credits or threaten child benefit.”

Research by Reform in their, “Back to black: Budget 2009 paper,” (p.24) outlined that £12.15 billion could be saved from cutting Child Benefit, tapering the family element of the tax credit, and allowing for a £5 billion increase in the Family Element and Child Tax Credit to address child poverty concerns.

But Nicola Smith of the TUC argued on Touchstone that, “universal entitlements have been continually proven to be the best means to ensure that those in the greatest need can access them … in 2000-01 while take up for Child Benefit was found to be near to 100 per cent, means-tested benefits showed take-up shortfalls.”

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