Today is Black Monday for the UK Welfare State with a raft of cuts to social security, legal aid and advice services which leave the UK’s poor abandoned to their poverty. When challenged, architect of the cuts Iain Duncan Smith retorted that he could live on £53 a week. His expenses records suggest he might not.
The £53 pound figure relates to what one benefit claimant has been left to live on after the Coalition’s cuts. To anyone who has been living in a cave for the last few months, today marks the first day of Black April, when a series of cuts to the social security take effect.
There is a hike in Council tax which will see single parents in work paying up to 333% rises in their council tax contributions. There is the Bedroom Tax which will see 660,000 households, 420,000 of which contain a disabled person lose between £14 and £25 each week from their Housing Benefit. There is the removal of Disability Living Allowance and its replacement with the Personal Independence Payment, which will see half a million disabled people lose their social security. I have detailed the full loss impact of the cuts in a recent article.
To make matters worse, the government is simultaneously shredding Legal Aid, the subsidy paid to ensure access to justice for the majority of us who simply cannot afford it. Citizen’s advice has also has its budget for advice services slashed from £22m to just £3m.
Not only is the government cutting away the social safety net, they are severing the lifelines of professional advice and justice too.
In the midst of this unprecedented assault on both the welfare state and the values which had us create it in the first place, comes Iain Duncan Smith’s claim that he could live perfectly well on the £53 a week, or £2,756 a year that he is forcing others to live on. Let’s put this in perspective:
The tax payer paid more than this in Mr Duncan Smith’s car allowance in 2008/9.
His monthly phone bill has been over £53 each and every month of the last financial year.
Mr Duncan Smith currently costs the tax payer a whopping £134, 565 in salary and expenses.
He also has no worries about meeting his housing costs as those hit by the bedroom tax as he lives rent free in a £2 million mansion owned by the aristocracy.
No, it would seem Mr Duncan Smith specifically and parliament in general seem quite happy to indulge in tax payer funded benefits. Meanwhile, those who really need it are being condemned by him and his government to face real poverty.
Fairness? Pull the Other One
What Mr Duncan Smith’s ridiculous statement also misses are the real costs of living faced by the sick, the disabled, the unemployed and the working poor as a result of these cuts.
Unlike Mr Duncan Smith, who has his food, travel, accommodation, stationery and other bills paid for by the tax payer, the UK poor do not. The cost of living in the UK is rising at five times the rate of wages. When the Coalition government argue that a working person should not have their wages rise slower than a person on benefits, people may well agree. However, the solution is not to create an equality of poverty. One could even argue that by cutting benefits, rather than working to increase wages, the government is effectively allowing corporations to dictate the poverty levels of Britain. Think about it:
- The corporation lowers wages to below the cost of living
- The worker withdraws their labour
- The government withdraws support driving working people to accept reduced terms and conditions or starve and lose their homes.
They really are all in it together. If we can afford to subsidise banks, corporations and MPs then by goodness we can afford to subsidise those who are, for whatever reason, unable to support themselves.
More than 50,000 people have signed the petition to ask Iain Duncan Smith to be forced to live on £53 a week. You can sign it here.