Every week I speak to people across Denton and Reddish who have a job and are working hard but still rely on their tax credits to help make ends meet until payday.
Times are tough. And sometimes we all need a bit of extra help. That is why we have a system to help people out if the worst happens. But we need to reform the system so benefits are tough, fair and reward people who work.
George Osborne and David Cameron have tried to divide the country by dishonestly claiming that their welfare policies are targeting the work-shy and benefit ‘scroungers’.
But their attempt to play politics has backfired. The changes they are making will hit people who have a job and are working hard to make ends meet. Quite simply, they are introducing a tax on strivers.
Because the economy has flatlined, George Osborne will be borrowing £212 billion more than he planned and it’s working families in Tameside and Stockport that will be paying the price of his economic failure.
Two-thirds of people hit by the Government’s cuts to tax credits and benefits are in work. And make no mistake, while they are hitting striving families, they are giving a £3 billion tax cut to the very richest people in the country.
Over Christmas I met Karen from Denton. She is struggling to make ends meet, but is doing the right thing, as this Government puts it – by working at the same time as bringing up her two young children. But she’s struggling. She frequently relies on the local foodbank, and she is set to lose some of her tax credits as a result of the Government’s proposed changes. Added to that, she is likely to be stung with extra Council Tax now that the government have cut funding for the relief scheme by 10%. The same is true of Josh in Reddish South. He is working – in low-paid work – and he and his partner rely on those tax credits to make that work worthwhile.
Like everyone, I want to cut the benefits bill. But the best way to do that is to get people into work, not punish people who are already doing the right thing by working but are struggling to make ends meet.
I want a system that helps people who are doing the right thing and trying to get a job or our already working but struggling to make ends meet.
I want a One Nation system which is tough but fair and which rewards people who work.
That’s why I am pleased that Labour has announced a compulsory jobs guarantee for people who are long-term unemployed.
The guarantee means that every adult who’s been out of work for two years would be offered a job. And they would have to take it or lose their benefits.
This will help up to 205 people in the Denton and Reddish constituency.
We would pay for this by making the reducing the tax relief on the pensions of people who earn over £150,000. When times are tough it cannot be right that we subsidise the pension contributions of the top 2 per cent of earners at more than double the rate of people on average incomes paying the basic rate of tax.
David Cameron cannot be the one nation Prime Minister Britain needs when his government targets people in work and people who want to work, and labels them as scroungers. A One Nation approach to welfare reform is one which is tough on the responsibility of people to work if they work, but fair to those who are in work or genuinely want to work.
This is in contrast to the Government whose approach on welfare has shown them to be more interested in exploiting the challenges the country faces than solving them.