8th January 2013

8th January 2013

The debate in the House of Commons resulting in benefits being capped at 1% rise may cause some, including 4 Lib Dem MPs to baulk at the idea but surely this is, to use modern parlance, a no-brainer.  Most people in the public sector have had 0% rises over the past two years and in the private sector have seen their wages go up by less than 1%.  Many have also seen the deductions for their pensions rise.  So why should those who do not work get any rise let alone 1%.

I heard a man on the television complaining he was barely surviving on his benefits.  How does he think people in the public sector feel when he got 5% last year and they got nothing?  Last year private and public sector workers had to survive on less because of the cost of living rises.  A teacher still has to pay his increased gas bill, a nurse still has to get to work paying more for her public transport, a police officer still has to pay for their cornflakes and the factory worker still had to pay his higher electricity bill yet they got nothing extra to help them.

If we look at the benefits affected by the vote this evening and marry these across to the working person it become even clearer as to why this has to happen.

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance, if you are not working why should you get a pay rise when those in work are not getting a pay rise?
  • Employment and Support Allowance, again if you are not working why should you get a pay rise when those in work are not getting a pay rise?  Some may say why target the sick but sadly too many people have been seen to abuse this benefit and ATOS has failed to provide a service fit for purpose
  • Income Support the argument here is that if you are working you should be supported but the government does not appear to have looked at this as a separate issue
  • Elements of housing benefit, here the rise in benefits only goes to benefit the landlords, if there is no extra money they either reduce the rent or get no rent at all.  Something or nothing, it is easy to guess which greedy landlords will go for.
  • Maternity allowance, this is a more difficult one but it could be argued that if you are planning on having a child then you should have considered can you afford it.  If not then you have to choose 50inch plasma TV and your monthly Sky costs or a child?
  • Sick Pay, Maternity Pay, Paternity Pay, Adoption Pay, many in the NHS are about to have their sick pay cut; in some cases by up to 30%; so again why should some-one working feel the pain whilst some-one not working does not?
  • Couple and lone parent elements of working tax credits and the child element of the child tax credit at this point one might consider that the government has gone a little too far.  If you are working then tax credits should have been left out of the equation.  We have to ensure that any plans for childcare will particularly help the working poor, rather than just offer relief to the middle class.

As Nick Clegg said Labour has to explain why it had content to support the two-year freeze in public sector pay, but is not willing to endorse a three-year 1% rise in tax credits and other benefits. Nick Clegg said “It is not a decision I relish but it is one of the decisions we need to take to fill the black hole in our public finances. That decision alone saves this country just over £5bn over the next three years. That is the equivalent of employing 140,000 classroom teachers,” Further he added “We have done that to protect the money for the NHS and for schools. Asking the question where would Labour look to find that five billion pounds?  Would Labour target our children in their schools, the country as a whole through defence cuts, the vulnerable through cuts in social care and local government or the health of nation by cutting the NHS?

No-one likes to see the amount of money they have increasing by less than the rate of inflation but it was not the unemployed, or the teachers, or the nurses, or the military and the list goes on who caused the problems we are in.  The group of people who caused it are sitting comfortably on their yachts, in their large houses by their swimming pools in the knowledge that Labour let them get away with it and now the Coalition has to clear up the mess without being able to get at the money squandered by the casino bankers.

Vince Cable is right when he points out that the welfare budget could not be insulated from the spending cuts that were needed to rebalance the public finances.

Like many I would love a large modern flashy car, three holidays in the sun, a 50 inch plasma TV – well perhaps not the 50 inch TV because most of the stuff on it is rubbish – but I like everyone have to live within my means.  The government has to do this and now so do those who get benefits paid for by the working taxpayers of the country.

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