FRESH from a defeat over tax credits, the Government is currently trying to push through a fresh round of cuts which will once again hit hard working people in Rochdale.
Last week in Parliament, I took Ministers to task over planned changes to the working allowance aspect of universal credit.
According to estimates, a working single mother of two will be £2,981 worse off under the proposed changes, scheduled to come into effect from April this year.
Rochdale was a pilot area for the new universal credit, and sadly it is local families who will be among the first to be hit by these devastating reductions.
Just over 1,400 people claiming universal credit in our town will see their household budgets cut. This will affect their ability to pay rent, put food on the table and support their children.
Universal credit, which combines six separate benefits under one payment, was meant to cut down on bureaucracy and help move people from welfare into meaningful work.
On paper it is a commendable idea, but in practice it has been an unmitigated disaster.
Let’s be clear, I have long been in favour of reducing the welfare bill and getting more people into employment. This should always be one of the principle aims of the Labour Party, after all the clue is in the name.
But we must be realistic about this, no one goes from long term unemployment to absolute self sufficiency over night. There must be a transitional period where in-work benefits are kept at a reasonable level.
The Government has defended the planned cuts by arguing that those affected can make up for the shortfall by working an extra “four hours a week” under the new so-called “living wage”.
The idea that the Conservatives think low paid workers can magically find 200 extra hours of work a year speaks volumes about just how out of touch they are.
When we factor in a recent report by the Office for Budget Responsibility which predicts extremely low wage growth over the next decade, the Government’s reasoning seems even more laughable.
Just as with George Osborne’s u-turn over tax credits, the Government must realise that in order to get more people into full-time employment, we must ensure that workers get a fair deal.