By Thomas Foster
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2896

Sunak set to slash welfare to force people back to work

The Tories will make life worse for vulnerable people
Issue 2896
Rishi Sunak and chancellor Jeremy Hunt

RISHI SUNAK and chancellor Jeremy Hunt want to slash welfare (Picture: Flickr/ Number 10)

Rishi Sunak is planning to slash benefits to fund the tax cuts announced in the budget last week. The prime minister said in an interview with the Sunday Times newspaper that he wants to abolish national insurance by cutting welfare assistance for the worst-off. Sunak said, “We should be encouraging everyone who can work to work. “We now have almost 2.5 million people who have been signed off as unfit to work or even look for work or think about working and I don’t think that’s right.”

It is true that the number of people recorded with long-term sickness reached an all-time high last year, with 2.8 million people not working because of illnesses. But this isn’t the result of ordinary people registering as ill to scam the welfare system to receive benefit payments, as Sunak would have us believe.

The huge increase in people going off sick has been caused by the Tories’ fatal and chaotic handling of the Covid pandemic. And over a decade of Tory austerity that has led to almost eight million people being stuck on NHS waiting lists. People in their early 20s are also more likely to not be working due to ill health than those in their early 40s.

That’s due to a significant rise in poor mental health among young people. Years of slashing services means that young people don’t have access to help, or have to wait too long for it. The latest cuts announcement is only the latest Tory attack on the worst-off.

Last autumn the government announced a toughening up of the work capability test— used to identify people who qualify for benefits and are not expected to look for work. The changes will lead to hundreds of thousands of people with mental health and mobility issues being forced to look for work from home or face having their benefits reduced by £4,680 a year.

Amid a cost of living crisis, ordinary people are already struggling. Welfare cuts will only make the crisis worse for many more. Sunak’s long-run ambition is to get rid of national insurance altogether. At the cost of £46 billion a year, he says he wants to end “double taxation”. But it was only at the start of 2022 that Boris Johnson introduced a national insurance rise in order to “give the NHS the funds it needs to tackle the backlog”.

He said the increase was also to and solve “the long-term issue of social care”. But both the NHS and social care are have crumbled. What has changed is that the Tories have their sights on the general election. They are making vote-grabbing promises at the expense of those most in need.

Labour refuses to tax the rich

Rachel Reeves— Labour’s shadow chancellor—refused to rule out sweeping cuts to public services if the party won the next election. She said that Labour isn’t “able to turn things around straight away” and vowed to stick to strict spending rules. “Labour is now the party of economic responsibility,” she said, as she failed to commit to bailing out bankrupt councils.

Labour views itself as stuck in a bind, because the Tories have adopted Labour’s meagre cash‑raising policies to fund recent tax cuts. Searching After refusing to reverse the tax cuts, Labour is now searching for new ways to pay for the few spending commitments that it has kept. Increasing income tax for the rich would be one way of raising revenue.

Another would be raising capital gains tax on profits from selling second homes, business and property. Another would be raising corporation tax on profits. And Labour could impose windfall taxes on profits and a wealth tax. Instead Starmer and his team say nothing can be done. Labour is more concerned about showing it’s a safe pair of hands for the capitalist class.

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