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Housing Benefit and Welfare Retrenchment in Britain

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 April 2000

University of Glasgow


Following the 1997 general election in Britain, the New Labour government made clear its intention to cut back and radically reform the social security system, including Housing Benefit, an income-related housing allowance for low-income tenants. The cost of Housing Benefit had doubled in real terms over the previous decade and was taking up a growing share of social security expenditure. The scheme also suffered from major deficiencies. Drawing on recent literature on welfare state retrenchment, this article examines why the government eventually retreated from cuts and a wholesale reform of Housing Benefit and opted instead for a more modest and long-term approach.

Research Article
© 2000 Cambridge University Press

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Acknowledgements: This article was written while the author was a visitor in the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. Thanks are due to SPRC seminar participants, to Dr Joanne Neale, and to two anonymous referees for helpful comments on the paper.