Tuesday 21 September 2010

Our benefits are under attack!

One of the more insidious moves which the ConDem coalition is making is the attack on benefits.  To facilitate this, they are trying to drive a wedge between employed and unemployed, to create a myth that it is an easy life on benefits - a "lifestyle choice" as Osborne so smugly put it.

The demonisation of claimants is being obediently carried out by the Tories' friends in the press.

In reality, benefit cuts are an issue for people in work as well as those out of work, and not just because in-work benefits are also under attack.  Social security benefits are part of the "social wage" which our forebears fought for, so that people would be protected if they lost their job or became sick, or retired.  Workfare schemes, making people work for benefits, will drive down wages and terms and conditions by creating a vast pool of cheap labour.  The next time someone in your workplace says its a good idea to make people work for their dole, ask them if they'd be happy if someone came in and did their job for £66 a week.  If they are very lucky. maybe the boss would let them do it for £66 a week!

Already Osborne has announced cuts of £11 billion with the promise of more to come.  Among the benefits singled out for attack is housing benefit.  This benefit is crucial in keeping the poorest in society housed.  As such it is arguably the one benefit which cuts across all categories - unemployed people, sick and disabled people, pensioners. lone parents and people in low-paid employment are likely to be receiving HB to cover all or part of their rent.

For private tenants, there will further reductions in local housing allowance rates. Currently these are set so that people on benefits could afford to rent about half of the properties of a given size in a given area.  This is being reduced to a third.  The possibility of obtaining an extra amount of up to £15 a week for renting the cheapest properties is being removed.  The clear implcation of this is that people will find it increasingly hard to find somewhere affordable to live, and will be faced with having to find part of their rent from other benefits.

The picture is also bleak for people who have relatives living with them (particularly if those people are in work).  Non-dependent deductions have been frozen since 2001 but the ConDems want bring the amounts up to where they would have been had they been increased every year - a process which they want to complete in just three years.  This means huge cuts in benefit for people with, for example a working son or daughter living at home.  It is arguable that this will not save money anyway, since will break extended families apart and put more people into the private rented market.

Of course the Tories will claim that "the market" will compensate - by forcing landlords to cut rents, but this is hightly questionable at best.  The Chartered Institute of Housing estimates that 750,000 households could lose their homes.

While all this is going on, the civil service union PCS has just announced that its members working in tax offices believe that £130 billion in tax went uncollected in 2009/10.

It is vital for all working people that we fight these measures.  You can make a start by coming to the Brighton Benefits Campaign Public Meeting this Thursday, 23rd September, 7pm, Friends Meeting House, Ship Street/

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