British workers are currently facing the tightest squeeze on their living standards in a century. Family budgets are at breaking point, real wages are lower than a decade ago and a generation of young people are going to end up worse off than their parents. But next month – as multimillionaire bankers get a massive tax cut – ordinary families will be made to pay the price in the form of the child benefit freeze, tax credit cuts and the bedroom tax, all of which will combine with stagnant wages, rising prices and public service cuts to devastating effect.
Research published by the TUC earlier today shows that the decisions being made by the government will cost middle-income households £1,200 a year. By the time of the next election, nine in ten households will be worse off, and half of all children in the UK will live in families below the breadline.
It’s time for a fundamental change of direction.
The UK is suffering from a jobs, growth and living standards crisis. If we can cure those, the UK will be well on the way to cutting debt and reducing the deficit. If living standards rose, people would have the confidence to start spending, and businesses the confidence to start investing.
We need fair wages – a living wage across government, decent pay in the private sector and worker representation in the boardroom so rich bosses can’t cream off the spoils of growth.
We also need fair benefits, with programmes that really help people back to work, benefits that people can actually live on and that rise with prices, and an end to the misleading and insulting caricature of claimants as work dodging scroungers.
And we need fair taxes, a Robin Hood Tax on the banks who caused the current mess, wealth taxes on the super-rich who did best from the boom and an end to the scandal of tax avoidance by big corporations.
Next Wednesday, when he stands up to give his 2013 Budget, George Osborne should admit that he’s got it wrong. The time has come to change course and use the budget not to enrich the City, but to help ordinary families, to bin austerity and promote growth and jobs.