Has ‘benefits spending’ risen by £6.4 billion, as the Telegraph claims?

by richardhutton

Has ‘benefits spending’ risen by £6.4 billion? Unsurprisingly, the answer is no. This is a claim made by Christopher Hope, the Telegraph’s Senior Political Correspondent:

‘Benefits spending up £6.4billion in just three months – but LibDems insist budget cannot be cut Spending on benefits is going “through the roof” despite Government attempts to crack down on the spiralling welfare budget, figures show’.

“Figures released alongside last week’s Budget show that the Treasury has had to revise sharply upwards its official forecast for spending on benefits, even though the previous estimate was only made at the Autumn Statement in December”. Figures show the forecast spend on benefits and tax credits in the five years between 2011/2 and 2015/16 has now jumped by £6.4billion since December 5. It means that every day since Chancellor George Osborne delivered his Autumn Statement, the projected benefits bill has risen by £61million”.

In reality, as the article itself goes on to vaguely explain, this concerns an estimate of future expenditure, which the author attributes to the Office for Budget Responsibility, without providing an actual source. What is the betting Telegraph readers interpret ‘the projected benefits bill has risen by £61million’ to mean that this reflects an actual increase, which has really occurred, rather than a supposedly revised estimate? Not least of all because Hope outlines a table entitled ‘How the benefits bill has soared in just three months’, when of course nothing of the sort has happened.

This is not news reporting. This is a senior journalist misleading readers with sleights of hand, in order to help politicians tell lies.