George Osborne’s autumn statement this month set out a 1% rise in benefits for the next three years – that’s a cut in cash terms. The BBC’s article sums it up perfectly – “some benefits will be increased at a lower level than the rising cost of living.” Ed Miliband has already pointed out that “Six out of 10 people hit by these cuts are people who get up every morning and go to work”, despite Osborne claiming that rises in out of work benefits for “work-shy and benefit scroungers” are unfair to those who work.
The cap includes working tax credits and maternity pay, with the change also affecting those claiming Jobseekers Allowance, employment and support allowance and income support. These cuts are unfair to working people. They disproportionately attack those within our communities in debt and poverty. We are clearly not “all in this together”.
Tax credits are needed to top up poverty wages because employers don’t pay a living wage. This affects those who are the real strivers in this country. Striving to get a job, striving to keep a roof over their family’s heads, striving to get food on the table for their kids every night. Osborne and Cameron have no idea what its like to strive for anything. They are, quite simply, two posh boys out of touch with working people and the struggles they face every day. Len McCluskey hit the nail on the head – “the social fabric of our nation is being ripped apart by millionaire ministers with no compassion for or understanding of the lives of ordinary people.”
Ed Miliband already set out the argument against the cut yesterday – letting the government show its responsibility by helping people back into work, and letting people show theirs by taking the work on offer. And Ed Balls is clear in his condemnation: “This Government’s economic plan is not working. But instead of changing course they’ve decided to carry on with more of the same failing policies.”
Len McCluskey said “Working men and women will ask, where are the jobs? Are my loved ones better off? Can we face the future without fear?” But with the Labour Party, working people can face a future without fear – taxing bank bonuses to fund jobs for young people out of work, one-year National Insurance holidays for small businesses taking on extra workers, not giving the richest in society tax cuts when the poorest in society pay more. The Labour Party is a party for working people. People who deserve a chance – not constant targets for this government’s destructive agenda.
59 charities said the cuts “will plunge many more children into poverty and put at risk the principles of the welfare state”. The head of Church of England charity Church Urban Fund condemned the cuts, saying “these cuts are clearly aimed at the unemployed and those in work but on low incomes.” Even Vince Cable called the demonisation of people who are out of work in Osborne’s statement “utterly wrong”. If the coalition can’t even back their own economic policy, how can they expect ordinary people to support it too? Will Hutton suspects they won’t, and instead, more and more people will consider the assault on the disadvantaged in society “illegitimate and contemptible”.
As benefits are cut for the low paid, the highest earners in the country are getting a tax cut. Cutting the 50p tax rate means 8,000 people earning more than £1 million get a tax cut worth an average of £107,500 next year… and every year after that. Rich people hoard their wealth in bank accounts, whereas low paid workers have to spend every penny just to make ends meet – giving money to low paid workers stimulates the economy, giving money to the rich is dead money. This is not just an issue of the receipt of benefits – it is an issue of fairness. A concept that this Tory-led government has been proven to be incapable of digesting.
Len McCluskey said that “Osborne’s chill wind is howling through the households of millions of ordinary people. It will punish our people for years to come unless we have a change of course and a government that invests in growth and jobs.” That change of course, that new direction, will be the Labour Party. And the first step is voting against these damning cuts.
Osborne is hoping to lay a trap for Labour by forcing a vote on this, but we shouldn’t let it be a trap. Labour should vote against the cut, and stand up for our people working hard every day, for low pay. John McDonnell said it best: “we are not playing Osborne’s cynical political games. We are not voting for his cuts to the poor.”