Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Austerity: Lite or Tight?

THIS letter from Andrew Wastling was sent to Northern Voices, and also addressed to Mr. Paul Harrison , The Editor Rochdale Observer,  for publication on the 'Your Views' page:

"Austerity – Lite or Austerity Tight ? “

IT was heartening to read in Talking Politics : 'Changes will make families worse off''Your Views', Rochdale Observer, [ 11.VII.2015 , p.12 ], our MP Simon Danczuk write of the last Budget :
'[It] is clear it is poor working families that are going to bear the brunt of the changes. The plan is to slash tax credits, housing benefit and child tax credit and compensate people with a higher minimum wage, [ misleadingly called a living wage]. While this sounds good in principle, the bottom line is thousands of families in Rochdale will be worse off to the tune of hundreds of pounds.'

So far so good - However, many of us would be interested to know what Simon's  view is on Harriet Harman acting Labour leader saying on the BBC's Sunday Politics programme, at the weekend, that Labour would NOT oppose the government's plan to reduce the overall household benefit cap to £20,000 a year outside London and hinted it would also back the third child limit on future tax credits claims. and  that the Labour Party won't oppose limits to Child Tax Credits in George Osbornes emergency Conservative Budget?
Furthermore Harman said that the Labour Party would accept some of the radical welfare cuts imposed by the Tory regime, her capitulation coming as experts around the country rounded on the Tory Governmnet for imposing more grim austerity measures that are “aimed at the poorest “ - what was she thinking?

Just to be absolutley clear , Tax credits have provided precious and targeted support to hundreds of thousands of families across the country for many years; 55% of children across the country are living in families that rely on them – 63% of these families are in work.
A staggering 13 million families will be worse off by an average £260 a year due to the four-year freeze in working-age benefits and tax credits announced according to an in-depth assessment of theBudget by independent think-tank The Institute for Fiscal Studies .[1].

Yet despite this Harman seems intent on promoting a ill-thought out brand of “austerity -lite” on the British people. This comes in the wake of others in the Labour Party who seem intent on making them even more irrelevant to working people by the day.

Especially so when we hear Labour’s Shadow Minister for Disabled People, Kate Green MP, refused demands from anti-Austerity campaigners to save the disabled persons Independent Living Fund (ILF) saying  quite clearly that :
'I do need to start by being clear that it’s not Labour’s position to retain the ILF.'

While Labour profess to support fully the right to live independently for disabled people we are now in a situation following plans to close the Independent Living Fund where England is left as the only UK country which will not have it’s own form of a fund to continue to support the additional funding requirements of those who have high support needs.

We have also seen the likes of Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary, Rachel Reeve claim that "sanctions " have been part of Britains Welfare State since it's founding. And shortly after being appointed, Reeves said Labour would be tougher than the Conservatives on cutting the benefits bill;

That a member of the same party that originally set up the welfare state can cite such glaring inaccuracies on sanctions which did in fact not exist until 1999, and casualy posist such reactionary views is frankly shocking to many in the wider labour movement & beyond.

Its intresting to note that on a lobby held on 6th January Independent Living Fund recipients called on MPs from all political parties to save the ILF. Caroline Lucas MP who sponsored the lobby told the meeting that her party , the Greens , are fully behind the call to keep and re open the ILF.

On Welfare Reform Labour seem to be intent on becoming what Tristram Hunt , another Liz Kendal leadership contender supporter has described just this week as being ,
'increasingly regarded as irrelevant in the aftermath of its disastrous election defeat.'  -
Quite so Tristram!
Only hours after her unilateral announcement three of the four leadership candidates – Andy Burnham, Jeremy Corbyn and Yvette Cooper – all signalled their opposition to the move , with the notable exception of Liz Kendal, Simons prefered Leadership candidate, who said she backs Harriet Harman's policy on welfare cuts.

Already , [ before we have another £50 MILLION in Budget cuts implemented by Rochdale Labour Council , imposed by a Tory Government with only a political mandate of twenty -four percent of the electorate ], a mere  few minutes walk from our MP's Constituency office there already exists in our  town centre ward  of St.Chad, St.Mary & St. Edmund ,   shamefull child poverty and social exclusion statistic that show :
'Child poverty, pensioner poverty and working age poverty in this parish  among the highest in the country. Male life expectancy, female life expectancy and qualification levels in this parish are among the lowest nationally. Lone parenthood in this parish is higher than average compared with other parishes in the country - 36% of children, 39% of pensioners already living in poverty, life expectancy for males reduced to 69 years and 38% of the people living there having no formal qualifications whatsoever.' [2].

It surley begs the obvious question is it still appropriate for Simon to be backing a candidate for the Labour Party leadership who would appear to have so little understanding of the impact such Austerity measures are going to have on child poverty numbers nationally and especially here locally in Rochdale ?
Simon said in the New Statesman in May that :  'Some in Labour will say that this means adopting a "Tory agenda".' [3]- well on this I agree he is exactly right .

Yours faithfully,



[1]. “Budget 2015: George Osborne's benefit cuts set to make 13 million families 'significantly worse off' “ , The Independent , 09.VII.2015 , please see link at : http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/budget-2015-live-george-osbornes-benefit-cuts-set-to-make-13m-families-significantly-worse-off-10378031.html

[2]. Church Urban Fund, 2015.

[3]. “ I'm backing Liz Kendall for one reason - because she can beat the Conservatives “ , New Statesman , Simon Danczuk 27 .V. 2015

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