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28 May, 2013 14:35

Slash welfare budget, pour money into security - UK

Slash welfare budget, pour money into security - UK

The UK has proposed slashing welfare funding to divert it to the police and armed forces in the wake of the Woolwich attacks, despite MI5 already having been informed enough to have kept tabs on the murder suspects for years.

The MP responsible for work and pensions has been in discussions with both the defense and home secretaries to heighten security measures on the British Isles at the expense of up to 3 billion pounds in welfare, according to a Telegraph report published Tuesday.

Iain Duncan Smith, from the UK’s ruling Conservative party proposed that housing benefit for the under-25s be restricted and state payments could only be given to families with more than two children, reported the paper. The extra money would be poured into the police and armed forces.

“Iain Duncan Smith has offered a deal which will protect the country’s security.”
One senior government source confirmed to the paper.

A governmental desire to increase security and intelligence spending has spiked following the brutal Woolwich murder which happened on May 22. Home Secretary Theresa May has proposed granting the security services the capabilities to access the communications data of British residents – a policy which Deputy PM Nick Clegg already withdrew his support for in April.

Prime Minister David Cameron has also proposed new Tackling Extremism and Radicalization Task Force (TERFOR) through which a combination of UK government forces plan to “look at ways of disrupting individuals who may be influential in fostering extremism”

Police clash with people in Woolwich in London on May 22, 2013 after a man believed to be a serving British soldier was brutally murdered. (AFP Photo / Justin Tallis)

However, great concern has been voiced by some who feel the move may be ineffectual.

“They’ve got something like 4,000 staff, MI5, and if they can’t keep an eye on the people who are at the very top of the watch list, then there needs to be a real shake up and heads need to roll,” investigative journalist Tony Gosling told RT.

The two suspected Woolwich murderers had been flagged by MI5 for eight years, with one friend of Adebolajo claiming that MI5 had even got to the point of attempting to recruit one of the attackers for their own covert operations.

“MI5’s job is to stop people like this committing acts like this and they haven’t done it, and this isn’t the first time. If we go back to the London bombings of 2005, you might remember that MI5 had been following these guys around as well. Now, all fair play to them if they can stop some plots taking place, but these guys were really at the top of the list and if they can’t stop these people then what are they there for?” Gosling questioned.

Welfare expenditure has been repeatedly slashed, with rises in benefit payments capped at 1 per cent on an annual basis. At the beginning of April, a series of cuts began to be imposed on the country, which critics said would strike low-income families and the financially vulnerable.

A woman reacts as she looks at floral tributes left at the scene where Drummer Lee Rigby of the 2nd Battalion was killed outside Woolwich Barracks in London on May 24, 2013. (AFP Photo / Justin Tallis)

On Sunday, the UK’s Mirror reported that one woman who had her welfare benefits halted died just nine days after she was ordered to go back to work. She was suffering from high blood pressure, kidney failure and blackouts, according to the paper, and had previously required a heart and lung transplant.

However, ‘unprotected’ departments, including the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office, have also suffered as a result of expenditure cuts, with defense spending facing a cut of 1.6 billion pounds and the Home Office 800 million pounds.

The two cuts proposed by Duncan Smith have been proposed on a previous occasion by the UK PM, but weren’t considered to be on any agenda. The matter is likely to be discussed further in a spending review next month.

Anxieties have been voiced that the move will widen a deep existing divide within the Con-Dem coalition.

“The Liberal Democrats will block it — and it will be for them to explain why it is more important for teenagers to be given council flats rather than for the nation and its citizens to be protected,” an anonymous senior conservative source told the Telegraph.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne refused to get on-board the welfare cuts scheme, and some already see this as a sign of deepening divisions within the UK’s Coalition Government. On the one hand, Britain needs to somehow battle its deficit, but on the other, there are different means of doing it. According to George Eaton, editor of The Staggers blog at New Statesman, “Osborne, as well as ruling out welfare cuts, has also ruled out further tax rises, I think he’s wrong to do so… further tax rises would reduce the need for such deep cuts.”

As far as security goes, however, Eaton remembers that Britain has not really had a terrorist incident since 2005. Therefore, while the need for security can never be understated, he believes the UK is not doing a bad job of it and there really is no reason to think that the country is under some grave threat of terrorism.