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.
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