Millions of working class people began this week in fear as Tory chancellor George Osborne prepared for his budget.
The budget, on Wednesday of this week, will pile more misery onto ordinary people.
Some of the most savage attacks will target disabled people. Osborne confirmed plans to snatch a further £12 billion from the welfare budget and admitted some cuts would be “controversial”.
Rosemary Boon from Oxfordshire receives Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Employment Support Allowance. She estimated that she could lose over £100 a month depending on where the cuts fall.
Rosemary told Socialist Worker, “I was a carer for my mum for 13 years. I hoped I would be fit enough to return to work later. But my doctor said I was physically and mentally worn out.”
Rosemary said any cuts to her income would mean cutting back on food. She turns 60 the day after the budget and would have retired this year—had the Tories not changed the retirement age.
Now she fears being assessed and losing her DLA.
“I’m riddled with arthritis,” she said. “I’m dreading being forced back to work. It hurts to walk, it hurts to stand and even lie down. Never a day goes past that I’m not in acute pain.”
Angela Haines from Cardigan, Wales, can’t work because she has lung disease and is currently fighting to keep her DLA. She told Socialist Worker, “My 20 month old granddaughter is the only thing that is stopping me from taking my life.Seeing her gives me a bit of hope.”
Angela receives £125 a week in benefits but expects this to drop to £95 after the budget. “One year of Tory minister Iain Duncan’s Smith’s salary could support me, on what I receive at the moment, for over 20 years,” she said.
Osborne was right to say the cuts would lead to “howls of protest”. The People’s Assembly has called for a national day of protests on budget day against the cuts. And Disabled People Against Cuts activists plan a protest at Downing Street from 10.30am.
As Rosemary put it, “There should be no children in poverty, no homelessness and no one starving. Benefits are what we are entitled to, not a hand out.”
“Cameron and his cronies won’t get the better of me. We all need to stand together and say enough is enough.”
Cuts could drive millions more into poverty
The budget will slash the welfare cap from £26,000 to £23,000 in London—and is expected to cut it to £20,000 elsewhere.
Osborne claimed his budget is for “working people”. He said the attacks were “a simple matter of fairness”.
In reality many “working people” in jobs are forced to claim benefits because their wages are already too low. Now many of these benefits, including tax credits, housing benefit, disability benefits and income support, look set to be slashed.
And for all the talk of an economic recovery, many people can’t find work. Others aren’t well enough to work.
Osborne whined that it isn’t right that benefit claimants can receive more than people in work. But much of the money doesn’t go to claimants—it is sucked up by private landlords who keep hiking up rents.
And if the Tories cared about workers’ wages they wouldn’t be imposing pay cuts and freezes on millions of public sector workers.
Osborne claimed the budget would help low-paid workers because anyone earning £12,500 a year would pay no tax. But no one should be earning just £12,500 a year in the first place.
The Tories had already announced a freeze on most working age benefits and tax credits for two years.
They plan to snatch housing benefit from unemployed 18–21 year olds.
Osborne also threatened that some people in council and housing association homes would be forced to pay market rents “if they want to stay in their homes”.
The Tories want to make life harder for such tenants partly to make the right to buy scheme more attractive. Ultimately this will mean there will be no council or social housing left for people in the future.
If the cuts go through they threaten to drive millions more people into poverty. Cuts to tax credits are estimated to push a further half a million children into poverty in Scotland alone.
But the Tories have a way to deal with this.
They have scrapped the target to eradicate child poverty by 2020 and they will focus less on “material disadvantage” when assessing poverty.
Instead they will talk up things that help them whip up hatred towards poor people—such as “addiction” and “worklessness”.
The reason for the cuts is political.
Osborne let slip that the Tories want a “budget surplus”. So the problem isn’t lack of money to fund services, benefits or decent wages. It’s that the Tories don’t want to spend it.