This Government has thrown the poor and vulnerable on the scrapheap

A freeze on council tax and cap on welfare will add to their misery

Share
Related Topics

Amidst all of George Osborne’s triumphalism last week, the Chancellor slipped in two austerity measures that went somewhat under the radar - the welfare ‘cap’ and a freeze in council tax. Both threaten to have serious and damaging consequences for vulnerable people.

Speaking on Shelagh Fogarty’s BBC Radio 5Live show after the Autumn Statement, I insisted that, “welfare must be provided on the basis of need”. That’s a fundamental principle that you wouldn’t think would need to be defended, and yet it very clearly does need to be restated, and defended, loudly.

A real life example of that need was obvious in the account provided on 5Live by Sue, a mother of a disabled child, who spoke about how it has become increasingly difficult to get respite care; some relief from the grinding hard, emotional work of caring. She was a passionate, compelling, persuasive speaker – and if she has to fight for what little help she gets, it’s not hard to imagine how many miss out.

One reason why this aspect of the Statement hasn’t got a lot of attention is its apparent technicality – this is a cap on AME, the “annual managed expenditure on social security”, which the government is of course selling as a populist move to tackle the (very small number of) benefit “cheats”.

 It’s been left to the Child Poverty Action Group to explain what this means: a cap on collectively Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Child Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Income support, Universal Credit (but only for people in work and disabled people), Housing Benefit (but only for people in work and disabled people).

 What the government is whispering is that excluded from this is Job Seekers’ Allowance, the most often attacked benefit, since this is – although you’ll have to find a clever interviewer to get a government Minister to admit it – a benefit whose cost is linked to economic conditions. If there aren’t jobs to be had, people, as so many are now, end up on that meagre £71.70 a week.

Not nearly enough has been said about how this Government has, with its ideologically driven cuts, targeted the most vulnerable – and particularly the disabled. It doesn’t help when we have a Labour ‘opposition’ that’s promising to be tougher on benefits than the Tories, instead of speaking up for the essential security blanket of the welfare state that their party established. It doesn’t help that they’ve already announced a “welfare cap” of their own.

Labour is heavily complicit too in an even-less-noticed element of the Autumn Statement - the freeze on council tax.

 Labour councils up and down the country, included Camden’s where I live, have year after year gone for populist council tax freezes, even when the option of a rise was available to them – proudly trumpeting the fact that they are saving the comparatively well off a pound or so a week, while losing more and more cash (compound interest in reverse) that might fund essential services, from libraries to social care to youth clubs - services that are particularly essential to the most vulnerable. Now they won’t even have the option of a small catch-up.

Local government provides many essential services, and its ability to do so – to continue to function at all – is being increasingly compromised. So much for this government’s claims to “localism”.

The Autumn Statement was very clearly an electioneering budget. But two tags that it will rightfully wear in history are clear – “viciously tough on the the vulnerable” and “not at all interested in the common good”.

Natalie Bennett is leader of the Green Party

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Critics of Fiona Woolf say she should step down amid accusations of an establishment cover-up  

Fiona Woolf resignation: As soon as she became the story, she had to leave

James Ashton
 

Letters: Electorate should be given choice on drugs policy

Independent Voices
Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities