A Budget that betrays working parents – that’s what we’ve had from George Osborne today.
Families with kids are going to be really hard hit by the Tories plans. Women are going to be hit more than twice as hard as men – by a Chancellor and a Prime Minister who clearly don’t give a damn about working parents’ lives.
Many families are going to be thousands of pounds worse off as a result of the £4.5bn cuts to tax credits alone, with over 3million families affected. That’s even before you include real cuts in the value of child benefit for the next four years.
If you’re on average pay with two children, you’ll lose £2,000 in tax credit cuts next year.
I’m glad the Tories have finally given in to our calls for a big increase in the minimum wage, but it’s not enough to compensate parents for the tax credits they are cutting. And they certainly shouldn’t call it a Living Wage because it still falls short of that.
A single mum with two children working part time on the National Minimum wage will gain just over £400 from higher pay but lose £860 from lower tax credits in 2016/17.
A couple with two kids both working full time on the minimum wage will still be £700 a year worse off. And if you’re currently paid more than the minimum wage, you’ll be harder hit.
Plus they are actually discouraging parents from working harder. Earn an extra pound or two and they’ll claw half of it back from your tax credits.
Remember how they said a 50 per cent tax was a disincentive for the highest paid people in the country? Yet they are quite happy to do it for the poorest paid.
So much for George Osborne’s promise to help working people. Do parents just not count as working people? Is this the “lifestyle” George Osborne claimed he didn’t want to fund?
And remember David Cameron’s pre-election pledge that child tax credit is “not going to fall.” It was a lie. This is a shameful betrayal of parents working hard to support their kids and get on in life. In the 21st century working parents shouldn’t have to go to food banks to put a hot meal on the table, as too many families now do.
But tax credit cuts aren’t the only assault on working parents. The Government is saving £370m from delaying childcare plans – despite having made grand promises before the election about nursery places and tax relief. We warned at the time that their plans weren’t funded – so it has proved.
Whilst George Osborne made much in his speech of promising Britain a pay rise, he also slipped in five more years of a 1% cap on public sector pay – below inflation, even though services like the NHS are already facing a serious and growing recruitment and retention problem.
And the research I commissioned today from the House of Commons Library shows that women are being hit over twice as hard as men by the Chancellor’s plans. Of the £34bn net extra money being raised from households over the next five years (taking account of the increases in tax allowances as well as cuts to tax credits and all the changes to benefits), £24bn is coming from women – even though women still earn less than men. David Cameron and George Osborne still have a serious women problem – they just don’t get the impact of their plans on women’s lives.
Of course the deficit and the debt need to come down. Of course Labour would have had to make tough decisions to get back into surplus. That is why I identified £800m in savings in the home office budget whilst protecting frontline policing- from things like abolishing Police and Crime Commissioners. But it is also why I think George Osborne’s plan to cut inheritance tax now for some of the richest estates is the wrong priority.
Because there is an alternative to George Osborne’s plans. The Tories approach isn’t fair, and isn’t good for our economy and our country in the long term.
At the same time as hitting Britain’s families, the Tories are failing to deliver the balanced growth and high paid jobs we need for the future – that also helps bring the deficit down.
Growth has been revised down this year. So have exports. And so has productivity. That means we’re not getting the high skilled jobs our country needs. We need a national mission to almost double R&D investment in our economy to match the 3% of GDP our competitors invest and there were no measures in today’s budget to do that.
The Chancellor talks about one nation – but he doesn’t think parents are part of that one nation. He talks about a long term plan but he is happy for stagnant growth with weak exports and low productivity to drag our debt up and our economy down.
Labour needs to have the strength to stand for a better approach – for a stronger economy with sustainable public finances and a fairer, less divided country: the two things go hand in hand.