Tag Archives: working tax credit

The Tories’ Big Lie on Tax Credit Cuts

tory-posterAccording to Iain Duncan Smith groupie and chief chinless twat at The Telegraph, Peter Oborne, it appears the Tories have watered down the benefit bashing campaign planned before Christmas.

Instead of the infamous sofa pic,  internet con man Grant Shapps is today unveiling the above lie which will be prominently displayed at locations across London.  Goebbels famously said the bigger the lie the more people will believe it.  Grant Shapps thinks the bigger the poster the more people will buy his bullshit.

What the poster doesn’t say is that today the Tories and their yellow lib dem lapdogs will be voting to cut benefits for working people on a low wage.

Labour have, as ever, missed a trick in this argument.  They could have argued that they supported a public sector pay freeze because they thought Tax Credits would protect low income workers.  Now Tax Credits are being cut this no longer applies.

It will be the gradual erosion of Housing Benefits, available to those in and out of work, that will cause the real damage however.  Today’s bill breaks the link between how much rents actually are, and how much Housing Benefit can be paid.  With rents soaring above inflation and Housing Benefit rises pegged at 1% this will only lead to yet more homelessness over the coming years.

Labour have not even mentioned this change that will in time price many benefit claimants out of the rental system completely.  It’s almost as if they don’t really give a shit.  And they don’t.  Today’s vote is about party politics and nothing else.  The Tories are lying quite openly about Osborne’s changes to benefits and Ed Milliband thinks he might score a few points by pointing it out.

Never forget, it was Labour that started the war on welfare and sowed the seeds for the scrounger/striver rhetoric that the Tories are utilising today.  They have just as much blood on their hands as Iain Duncan Smith and no amount of crocodile tears now at the damage they inflicted will change that.

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Unravelling the Mystery of Falling Unemployment Figures

Another day brings yet another tantrum from the hapless Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.  This time it’s the BBC who are the subject of his potty mouth, with his claim that journalist Stephanie Flanders is ‘peeing all over the economy’ for discussing the strange discrepancy between a nose diving economy and apparent falling unemployment.

IDS appears to think that state TV should ignore this much discussed phenomena and instead broadcast announcements proclaiming what a wonderful job our glorious leaders are doing.  Unfortunately for ministers balanced journalism doesn’t quite work like that.

The truth is that it doesn’t take much digging into the recent unemployment figures to discover that the situation is far from rosy.  The staggering rise in self-employment – 218,000 self employed workers on the year – seems to be one explanation for the fall in unemployment.  Combined with the growth in part time work, this explains much of the economic anomaly which seems to be taking place.

On it’s own, a rise in casual, part time and self employed work still doesn’t fully explain what’s going on.  The Office for National Statistics (ONS) still maintain that the number of total hours worked over the economy rose by 0.5%, meaning that even if people are pushed into insecure and casual work, the actual amount of work being done in the UK is still rising.

This still flies in the face of the plummeting growth figures.  To understand why this is happening requires something few economists and journalists possess – an understanding of the benefits system, and in this case Working Tax Credits.

To qualify for the self-employed element of Working Tax Credits, a claimant  must declare that they are working at least 30 hours a week.   This does not mean that they are earning even minimum wage for those hours.  They could be earning nothing at all.  Those on low (or no) incomes as self-employed workers will be recorded in the statistics as working 30 hours a week. So whilst the recent figures show a small rise in the numbers of hours worked, this doesn’t mean that people are actually getting paid for those hours.

Given the huge leap in those now registered as self-employed, and the relatively small rise in hours worked across the economy, this is perhaps enough to reveal that whilst people may be working more hours (on paper at least) they aren’t any better off.

The number of people without children claiming Working Tax Credits under the 30 hour rule has almost doubled since 2004 and is still rising.  There is even anecdotal evidence that Work Programme providers – the grasping poverty pimps paid billions by the Government to get people into work – are bullying unemployed claimants off the dole and onto Working Tax Credits.

This dovetails with the growth in people who are in work, or self-employed, and claiming Housing Benefits – a benefit based on income rather than hours worked.  The latest DWP Statistical bulletin shows a rise in Housing Benefit claims of around 20,000 people between April 2011 and April 2012*.  Whilst this does not represent a huge leap it must be weighed against the far stricter criteria for the benefit.

So whilst the number of people who are ‘unemployed’ is claimed to be falling, the number of people claiming income related benefits appears to be rising.

There are two figures which are key in understanding levels of unemployment.  The headline figure, which states that there are currently 2.56 million unemployed people, is based on the Labour Force Survey.  This is a large scale household survey using internationally recognised measures of estimating  unemployment and is carried out by the ONS.  The second is the Claimant Count.  This is compiled by the ONS from data provided by the DWP and represents the number of people claiming the unemployment benefit Job Seekers Allowance.

Whilst unemployment according to the Labour Force Survey has steadily fallen over the last few months, in part because of the reasons given above, the Claimant Count figures have bounced around, although the number fell last month.

For the last year the Government have been claiming this is down to the changes made to sickness, disability and lone parent benefits.  The argument is that many who were previously claiming Incapacity Benefits or Income Support will now be on Job Seekers Allowance and included in the claimant count.  As ever the Government’s claims hold little water once the numbers are crunched.

The number of people claiming sickness benefits (Incapacity Benefit or Employment Support Allowance) fell by just 21,000 between February 2011 and February 2012.  The number of those claiming lone parent benefits dropped by 30,000 in the same period.    Many of these people will not have then been eligible for Job Seekers Allowance.  Even if they were then it would only represent about 4000 people a month – the true figure is probably half that.  What can’t be hidden is that the number of working age benefit claimants in total rose by 117,000 between February 2011 and 2012.

It’s clear that changes in benefit eligibility criteria have had only a negligible impact on the claimant count.  There is one factor however which has skewed the figures considerably.

Over half a million benefit sanctions were handed to Job Seekers Allowance claimants in 2011 and the figure is believed to be rising.  This represents a tripling in the number of claimants who have had benefits stopped since 2009.  The ONS recently confirmed to me that those sanctioned are often not included in the Claimant Count – it depends on whether a claim is maintained throughout the sanction, which in many cases it isn’t.  With sanctions lasting anywhere between two weeks and six months, this is enough to skew the count by tens of thousands of people every month.  Other people are ‘disallowed’ benefits because they are judged to have given up a job voluntarily, or failed to meet JSA eligibility.  It almost renders the Claimant Count worthless, as it tells us far more about the current sanctioning policy in Jobcentres than it does about the true number of unemployed people.

Economic editors at the BBC and elsewhere have rightly focused on the rise in temporary jobs due to the Olympics, the rise in part time work, or zero hours contracts, as some of the factors behind falling unemployment.  All of these will no doubt have made an impact.

But almost a quarter of a million more people on Working Tax Credit (but not necessarily earning anything) and half a million benefit sanctions tells us far more.  Unemployment is not falling as Iain Duncan Smith claims.  The growth in hours worked has more to do with reporting requirements for working tax credits than it does with any genuine improvement in the labour market.  Sanctions grossly distort true  numbers of unemployed benefit claimants.  The number of people claiming Housing Benefit and Working Tax Credits is rising, despite stricter eligibility for these benefits.

And once again, even this month, those who have been unemployed for over a year rose, despite over half a billion handed out to welfare to work companies with the aim of cutting long term unemployment.

This Government’s policies are not working.  And no matter how they try and cook the books, neither are an increasing number of people.

Correction 17/10/12:  Recent information from the ONS suggests some people who are sanctioned may be included in the Claimant Count.  It depends whether the claim remains live, many do not.  Am waiting on further information from the ONS and will clarify in a later piece.

*Unfortunately there is a lag in Housing Benefit, sickness benefit and lone parent benefit statistics which are now only to be published quarterly.  Therefore the most recent figures are not available and won’t be until November. The most recently published figures are at (PDF): http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/stats_summary/stats_summary_aug12.pdf

Half A Million Children Condemned To Poverty At A Stroke

Almost half a million children have been condemned to lives of desperate poverty with a stroke of George Osborne’s pen.  Figures released yesterday reveal that 450,000 children are to be affected by changes to Working Tax Credits, which will see part time workers stripped of vital benefits.

Families have lost up to £73 a week due to changes, which came into force at the beginning of April, and mean that people working under 24 hours a week are no longer entitled to Working Tax Credit.  Around 200,000 families could find themselves better off on benefits due to the changes, the precise opposite of Iain Duncan Smith’s lie that the Tories will make work pay.

The deluded toffs have claimed that hard working parents should simply ask for more hours to ensure they keep the benefit.  Only people who have never had a proper job could think that workers can simply demand more hours if they need more cash and bosses will be only too happy to comply.  The latest Government figures show that only around 5% of families have been able to increase their hours to satisfy the new conditions for Working Tax Credit.

Time and time again out of touch millionaires tell us we need to work harder to stay out of poverty, as if soaring unemployment and the record rise in part time workers is down to laziness on the part of workforce.  Sick and disabled people are told to simply get a job by lying ministers who pretend there’s no discrimination in the work place and jobs are falling out of the sky.  Sacked Remploy workers are lectured on the need to re-integrate into the mainstream workforce, a noble aim, yet there seems to be no rush by employers to recruit disabled workers.  People on the dole are being forced to work for free, yet there is little chance even this will help them find work.

It’s hardly surprising that clowns like Boris Johnson and David Cameron are so out of touch.  Boris Johnson claims the quarter of a million a year he earns for his shit column in the Telegraph is chicken feed for a task he knocks out on a Sunday morning.  David Cameron probably wouldn’t even notice if his income was cut by £73 a week.  Yet these arrogant posh boys give themselves tax cuts whilst the rest of the country is forced into hunger and homelessness.

Boris is around £16,000 a year better off due to Osborne’s tax give away.  That’s over 200 times more than the amount being cut from the weekly incomes of the country’s poorest families.  And it’s not just Working Tax Credit.  Many families will already be struggling with the cuts to Housing Benefits, sickness benefits and Educational Maintenance Allowance, along with soaring food prices, fares and utility bills.

The Government of privileged little rich boys are unleashing poverty on millions of families on a scale that is unprecedented in modern history in the UK.  They claim to be cutting the debt our children will be forced to pay off, yet they are doing it by taking food from their bellies now.  And still the debt rises as austerity pushes us into the longest recession since the 1930s.

David Cameron will never know the stark cold terror of realising you don’t have enough money left to feed the kids.  He will never experience the panic of the pre-pay electricity metre plunging your home into darkness unexpectedly.  He can’t know what it’s like to be forced to visit foodbanks, or to wander round the supermarket wondering if you dare steal anything just to put food on the table.

Yet for millions of people this is the reality of everyday life and still these toffs want to take more from us.  Will they not be happy until our children are begging on the streets for food?

The Government is doing the exact opposite of securing the UK’s future by creating this social time bomb.  Millions of children growing up with nothing will enter adulthood feeling they have nothing to lose.  Shanty towns could emerge as tens of thousands of people lose their homes over the next two years.  Crime will soar and even more pensioners will die alone, unable to keep the heating on.  Riots like those seen last Summer could become an annual event.

Working Tax Credit has been a sticking plaster for the shamefully low wages billionaire bosses pay their workers.  Housing Benefit is a subsidy to landlords so eager to profit from the decimation of social housing in the UK.  Meagre benefits end up in the pockets of Tesco share holders or energy company bosses.  The vast bulk of the Welfare State not only subsidises the rich but protects them from being murdered in their beds.  The last time social inequality was so out of control Europe was plunged into a state of near revolution.  Only nationalist wars could protect the ruling class.

Nationalism isn’t so fashionable these days.  David Cameron’s class war may yet come to look more like civil war.  The effete little posh boys in Parliament won’t look quite so fucking cocksure when their mansions burn.