What we saw through the recent budget is this government isn’t doing very much to help our communities like Reddish. But what they are doing is making things much harder for working families to make ends meet and plan for the future.
The ongoing and deepening failed economic outlook means that the welfare bill is set to be over £13 billion higher than George Osborne planned, and borrowing has risen by a staggering 10 per cent this year alone.
One of the biggest issues that people here in Stockport have been contacting me about is the impact that the Liberal Democrat/Conservative government’s welfare reforms are having. Worse, the government have attempted to frame the debate that their welfare reforms are targeting the ‘work-shy’ and ‘benefit scroungers’, but what is clear from the letters I receive in my postbag, and from the many people who come to my Advice Surgeries, is that this simply isn’t the case!
In fact, it’s now clear that two-thirds of people hit by the cuts to tax credits and housing and council tax and other benefits are actually in low paid work.
So despite the government continually making bold claims that their new Universal Credit will help make work pay, this claim turns out not to be true for around 2.1 million people who will now find that Universal Credit will mean they are worse off in low paid work.
It’s a shambolic situation and leaves many families in Stockport unsure of what to do about their circumstances and how to plan for the future. And now we know that even senior politicians in the Cabinet are calling Universal Credit a “disaster waiting to happen”.
But probably worst of all the measures being introduced by stealth is the government’s ‘Bedroom Tax’ which will take a whopping half a billion pounds away from disabled people, families of soldiers and many low income households. Worse, the government are only providing £30 million to protect people against the measure in their discretionary ‘transition’ fund.
And the blunt truth is this policy doesn’t do anything to address the problems of housing shortages for affordable rent here in Stockport, but it will hit low income working families and some of the most vulnerable people in our community through no fault of their own. And yet again, it is now becoming clear that two thirds of the households affected by these changes are home to someone who is disabled.
Now the government object to the use of the ‘bedroom tax’ tag because they say it isn’t a tax, but a ‘spare room subsidy’. But let’s face the facts: No-one is ‘given’ a spare room, these are people who find themselves with a spare room because of a change in their circumstances – often caused by a bereavement, or children growing up and leaving home.
Cruelly, the bedroom tax will affect 1,292 people across my constituency including in Reddish, but there just aren’t 1,292 smaller properties available for people to downsize to, even if they wanted to – and that’s the real problem, and why it IS a tax for those people who will have no real option other than to pay this additional charge.
The government have got it wrong. They should admit it and axe the bedroom tax.
This article has been written for the MP’s column in the Stockport Express and Stockport Times newspaper