The sole argument used by the government for the unalloyed nastiness of its welfare benefits uprating bill (Report, 9 January) was that it was wrong that benefits for the jobless had risen by 20% since the financial crash, while wages for low-paid workers had only risen by 10%. However, what seems to have escaped ministers’ notice is that people don’t buy things in shops with percentages: they buy them with money. And in money terms, 20% of the £71 a week jobseeker’s allowance is £14, while even for the lowest-paid, 10% of the national minimum wage is £23 a week. So even the very lowest paid in work are £9 a week better off than those jobless on benefit.
The Iain Duncan Smith argument is not only wrong, it’s a perversion of the truth. While in the alleged cause of deficit reduction, JSA claimants are being made worse off by nearly £400 a year, the richest 10% have emerged almost unscathed, the richest 1% on over £3,000 a week are being handed an income tax cut worth £3bn a year, and the 1,000 mega-rich at the top (less than 0.1% of the population) have increased their income and wealth over the last three years according to the Sunday Times Rich List by a staggering £155bn.
If the government withdrew the cut in the 50% tax rate for the super-rich, there would be no need for benefit cuts at all. Better would be a real jobs and growth strategy, since it costs £10bn a year to keep a million people on the dole. How would it be paid for? Any further tranche of quantitative easing could be diverted to a national investment bank to invest directly in manufacturing or construction. Or a capital gains tax levy on the colossal gains of the ultra-rich could raise enough to generate a million jobs in two years. Or £30bn could be borrowed at a cost of just £150m to get a rapid economic turnaround in house-building, energy and transport renewal, and low-carbon technology.
Lab, Oldham West and Royton
• From April 2013, the government is cutting council tax benefit for people on benefits, so they will have to start paying council tax. A poll tax by another name. So, in Liverpool, 44,000 people will have to pay £2.25 per week to the council. Even on the higher JSA weekly allowance of £64.30, this represents a 3.5% benefit cut. Then those in receipt of benefits who have a spare bedroom in their socially rented house will lose £14 per week from their housing benefit. That’s not to mention increases in bus fares of 20-30% because the government has also cut bus subsidies or the ever-increasing utility costs. For the Tories and Lib Dems to suggest people unfortunate enough to have to rely on benefits will only lose around 1.2% in benefit, because of the 1% cap they voted for, is cold-hearted, callous and dishonest. How are people supposed to buy food, pay for bus fares and look for work with cuts on this scale?
Cllr Barry Kushner Lab, Liverpool, Professor Saville Kushner
• Some advice to Newcastle leader Nick Forbes and other Labour councillors who “didn’t come into politics to make horrendous cuts” (Report, 9 January). Don’t do it then – especially when there are alternative strategies to pursue. There is a debate to be had about the real powers that councils still have, for example, to use reserves and prudential borrowing powers to at least “buy time” for the type of campaign necessary that could force Nick’s hoped-for “change in government direction”. Labour in Westminster could help by pledging that an incoming government would reimburse councils which took such a stand.
Most importantly, councillors have to understand that government cuts are not some inevitable “act of God”. They are the acts of Cameron (and Clegg) and, like Thatcher’s poll tax, can be defeated. Of course, if Nick and others aren’t up for the fight, they can always stand down as councillors. Plenty of other candidates would come forward to oppose cuts not just in words but in action too.
Trade unionist and Socialist Coalition national election agent
• There must be a PR prize that can be awarded to the folks in the Tory back-office who’ve managed to drive the propaganda campaign to the point where most people believe that those most affected by a dysfunctional economic system are blamed for that dysfunction: the cause of the effect – simply brilliant.