Three weeks ago I blogged about how the timing, execution and end result of the announcement of cuts to child benefits suggested that it was more about press cover than deficit reduction. (The announcement was rushed out, a surprise to senior ministers and the media alike, on the day that Channel 4 showed the Dispatches programme which exposed the complicity of Andy Coulson in widespread phone hacking.) The idea of avoiding the "cost" of means testing by excluding people on the basis of total household income simply didn't stand up to proper scrutiny, and the fact that joint incomes of £80k plus didn't exclude CB while an individual income of £45k did was categorically unreasonable.
More evidence emerged today to back up the suggestion that this was policy on the hoof. According to the WSJ, the Treasury is in disarray over a policy they are calling "unenforceable" for a whole range of reasons well laid out in the linked article.
The bottom line is that it undoubtedly will be more expensive to implement this "is there a higher-rate taxpayer in the household" approach than it would have been to create the means-testing which George Osborne claimed would be too expensive itself to give any overall benefit. And that means that the policy cannot have been checked by civil servants, in the Treasury or in HMRC, before being rushed out as a surprise announcement the day that Dispatches aired.
It was Coulson cover. The cover is blown.