Analysis and Comment: Can you live on £53 per week?

Can you live on £53 per week, as the Works and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith suggests you could, if you had to?

Here’s a table, rounded to weekly, monthly and annual amounts, which should answer the question.

Rent isn’t included because a person on £53 per week (subject to living in appropriate accommodation) would have their rent paid in full by Housing Benefit.

Council Tax is included and is an actual amount charged by one local authority to somebody in receipt of full income-related housing benefit after the new local Council Tax Allowance (which replaced the single national Council Tax Benefit system) was applied.













Council Tax
(after applying new local Council Tax Allowance)





Water Bill





Gas Bill





Electricity Bill









So, the answer is, no. A person can’t live on £53 per week; because this doesn’t even cover the statutory payments a person is required to pay.

You can’t avoid paying your council tax. Unless you’re on a meter you can’t do anything about your water bill.

True, you can reduce your gas and electricity usage; but after recent consecutive price hikes people have cut their usage to a minimum and are putting on extra clothing to avoid turning the heating up.

Ah, clothing. No, you can’t buy any new clothes because you’re already in deficit. There is no money left to buy new clothing.

As for luxuries, there’s no spare for cigarettes (“good”, I hear you say) or drink.  But I don’t just mean alcohol. There’s no spare for squash, tea, coffee, milk or Horlicks; and, to misquote Jasper Carrot, “no cowin’ Bovril” either!

Bovril is a drink made from beef extract – but you can’t extract money for beef from £53 per week – or any other food item either. There’s no money left. You’re in deficit. So what are you going to do to pay for food?

Well, you can make a withdrawal from a food bank, of course. When you’re starving and unable to feed your children you’ll put the indignity to one side and submit yourself to the shame of organised begging. But food banks are over-burdened and can’t cope with the number of people calling on their support; so they have been forced to limit the number of “withdrawals” people can make.

I don’t know what the minimum amount is that people need to live on. But it is a lot more than £53 per week.

Privatising the provision of essential services, such as gas, electricity and water, causes a problem; because now, the poor, the not-so-poor and the rich also have to fund profit for shareholders and inflated directors’s salaries and bonuses, in addition to the actual cost of getting the energy to households.

I’ve nothing against profit or wealth – but they should be built on the backbone of customer choice; rather than people’s necessity. The benefits system is in a mess and is in desperate need of reform.

There ARE people who believe that living off benefits is a genuine and acceptable lifestyle choice; and who choose to milk the system, despite what people on the left say.

There ARE people in desperate need who rely on benefits to survive: hard-working people who are doing all they can to provide for their families, despite what people on the right say.

But while politicians on the left and the right argue over benefits and welfare reform, all they are doing is using the poor as a political football, to kick in this direction or that; when what they should be doing is working together on joined-up approach to remuneration, welfare and taxation to create an economic system that’s fit for purpose.


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