Talking Politics: The Government’s welfare reforms fail the fairness test.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and David Cameron.
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and David Cameron.
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The Government’s welfare reforms fail the fairness test. After all they are not reforms at all.

They are cuts dressed up as reforms with the deficit used, yet again, as the shield to hide behind. I suspect the Tories would be doing this even if there was no deficit. The Lib Dems should know better than to go along with these attacks on families, parents and pensioners. But how many times have we said and thought that in the last three years? They certainly hold no claim on the liberal bit of their name anymore. Thousands in Halifax will be affected by these changes. Many won’t even know what’s about to happen. The cuts are deep and divisive. They hit all sections of the community. Parents will have child tax credits cut, pregnant women and young mothers who will see maternity pay reduced, and many genuine benefit claimants seeing their income dramatically reduced. This is not a Government on the side of Halifax residents. What is inexcusable about many of these welfare cuts is the thinking behind them. It is all about political strategies and tactics, not about helping people who need it most. The Government is triangulating, with the misguided assumption that many people will be happy to see welfare cuts. They are wrong. Thousands of people in Halifax will not be supporting cuts to other people’s incomes when they are being hit themselves. One in four people in Halifax are over the age of 60. They won’t be happy in April when the ‘granny tax’ comes into force, which will see many pensioners lose out. I don’t think any low-paid new mothers will be giving the thumbs up to these changes when they will be losing up to £1,300 during pregnancy. Parents who receive child benefit will hardly be enamoured when they realise it has been cut, or they have to fill in endless forms to say they should no longer be receiving it. Bureaucratic as well as barmy. Then there is the fairness test. Many single earning Halifax families will see their child benefit cut, while some dual earning families earning double the amount will be able to keep every penny.

Regressive as well as wrong. This issue of welfare payments should not be about trying to create divides between those in work and those looking for work. Yet that is exactly what the Government is doing. The narrative that compares ‘strivers and shirkers’ reduces the debate to trivial levels. The issue should be about fairness and helping those who need it most. The constituents who have come to me in recent weeks about cuts to their benefits are certainly not shirkers. They are genuine, decent people who don’t deserve to see their incomes reduced. There are plenty of ways to reduce the deficit. Attacking vulnerable people, hitting hard working families and undermining the principles of universal payments are not some of them.