1 October 2015
On Wednesday 8th July, George Osborne unveiled the first Conservative government Budget since 1996, which he claimed was ‘a plan for Britain’ for the next five years to keep moving us from a low wage, high tax, high welfare economy; to a higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare country.
We believe this Budget is cruel, counterproductive and a serious blow for the fight against climate change. The welfare cuts announced by George Osborne will plunge thousands of people into poverty, and cause families to be evicted from their homes. We are deeply concerned that the people of Peterborough are set to face needless hardship as this Government continues its economically illiterate and utterly unjust mission to hack away at our welfare state and public services. People on benefits are being blamed and systematically targeted in an unprecedented way, all in the name of Austerity, while the rich and multi-national companies are given tax breaks to quote George Osborne’s words ‘to encourage growth’.
For those on low pay he has made a mockery out of the Living Wage by trying to rebrand the new minimum wage of £7.20 as implementation of a ‘National Living Wage’ when this couldn’t any further from the truth. Many of you reading this article will be waking up to cold hard facts that your tax credits and other benefit cuts are going to be leaving you struggling close to or over the edge of financial disaster. This will lead to people being driven to desperation by using ‘payday’ loan companies in order for them to feed their children and pay their bills. So in the context of £4.5bn cuts to tax credits this policy is clearly not a real Living Wage, it is a sleight of hand, to distract from the corporate tax cuts to the very businesses that have created so much working poverty. Additionally, this new ‘National Living Wage’ would only be available for workers over 25, only one of the ways in which young people would be hurt by these new measures. Housing benefit will also be cut for 18 to 21 year olds. Additionally, students will be hurt by many of the measures to be implemented by the Budget. Maintenance grants for students (paid to students with family incomes below £42,000) are to be scrapped and converted into loans from 2016/17, and tuition fees would no longer be capped at £9000 a year for students, but rise in line with inflation.
Disabled people will also be hit hard by the reduction in the level of Employment Support Allowance (ESA). In my opinion, is a direct attack on the ill and disabled. There will also be cuts to employment and support allowance payments for new claimants deemed capable of ‘work-related activity’.
Lower-income households would also be badly affected, through the drop in the benefits cap from £26,000 a year per household to £20,000 (£23,000 in London) this comes to light of a legal ruling that the existing inadequate level puts Britain in breach of its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The irony of the situation is that the Government’s own advisors say slashing the benefits cap will throw 40,000 more children into poverty.
These Austerity cuts are not about bringing down the deficit debt, this is about the Conservative Government’s ideological obsession with welfare cuts which will plunge thousands more people into poverty, and I’m deeply concerned that we will now inevitably see a steep rise in the numbers facing needless hardship, while the services they rely upon also struggle from financial pressures and lack of support.
With young people, students, disabled people, low-income families and the unemployed all faced with the worst impacts of the government’s new austerity measures outlined in the Budget, it is the wealthy, the banks, and the corporations that will benefit.
Osborne’s budget headline was the introduction of a living wage. This deception is indicative of his budget as in reality it is an increased minimum wage repackaged, any advantage of which will be more than offset by cuts to tax credits.
In addition, the exclusion of those under 25 from the new minimum wage, the attack on student maintenance grants and the additional conditions place on housing benefit for those under 21 shows this budget is bad news for young people. In general the young didn’t vote Tory and the Conservatives have responded in kind. The final insult is the giveaways for big business in terms of a corporation tax cut and the wealthy in terms of inheritance tax. At a time when child and fuel poverty continue to rise, if the Chancellor really cared about fuel poverty, he'd make energy efficiency the number one infrastructure investment policy.