From the TUC

Did the Budget Pass the Fairness Test?

22 Jul 2010, by in Public services, Society & Welfare

We had a fascinating briefing here at Congress House yesterday, an opportunity to hear about the impact of the Budget on the poorest people.

I thought it made a very strong case that the Budget measures will have a very unfair impact on poverty and inequality.

About seventy people from unions, anti-poverty campaigns and charities came, and the briefing was chaired by Lesley Mercer, the Director of Employment Relations and Union Services at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.

The first speaker was Tim Horton, Research Director of the Fabian Society. Tim emphasised the fact that most discussion about whether the Budget was fair had concentrated on the benefit and tax changes, but the forthcoming £34 billion of public spending cuts would be even more important. Spending on public services is ‘pro-poor’, so cutting them tends to hit the poorest hardest. I thought the most enlightening part of his talk was his point that all the discussion about the fairness of the increase in income tax personal allowances had only looked at the impact of what amounts to a tax cut. Few commentators had taken into account the service cuts of £3.7 billion that would be needed to pay for it – when that was included, the regressive impact was clear. The government insists that they have no alternative to the cuts they plan – but no one forced them to go ahead with this measure.

The next speaker was Prof Ruth Lister, of Loughborough University, speaking about the impact of the Budget on women and families. A posting based on Ruth’s speech is already up on this site. I was particularly struck by her point that this Budget, which was marked by cuts focused on families, was passed by parties that claim to be ever so family-friendly.

Finally we heard from Richard Capie, Director of Policy and Practice at the Chartered Institute of Housing. Richard gave a fascinating talk that began with the housing policy background, but what stuck in my mind most was the section on Housing Benefit. Richard pointed out that, at £21 billion, HB represents 80 per cent of all public spending on housing, so changes don’t just have an effect on claimants, they have a huge impact on the housing market as well.

From next year, HB will be ‘capped’ at £250 per week for a one bedroom property, £290 for 2 bedrooms, £340 for 3 bedrooms and £400 for 4 or more. Richard pointed out that, of the 32 London boroughs, there are only 4 where you can rent a house or flat for less than this at present. Then, when indexing in line with the Consumer Price Index (usually less than housing inflation) kicks in, even those boroughs will be squeezed. On top of all this, the 10 per cent cut in HB for people who have been unemployed for over a year will make it even harder for the poorest families to hold on to their homes.

The cumulative impact is likely to be that landlords will refuse to rent to people on HB or JSA and unemployed tenants will be concentrated in a handful of poor areas. Speakers from the floor pointed out two extra horrors:

  • Lone parents, who will have to move from Income Support to Jobseeker’s Allowance once their youngest child is five, will find themselves hit  by the HB reduction, so children will be made homeless.
  • Disabled people – a million are going to be forced off DLA and ESA – will be disproportionately likely to spend over a year on Jobseeker’s Allowance. We already know that disabled people who claim JSA take much longer than non-disabled claimants to get jobs and this will have only got worse in the recession.

My contribution to the discussion was to point out that unions are keen to work with anti cuts campaigns being organised by community groups, charities and anti-poverty organisations. If you have details of a campaign you are involved in, do let us know.

4 Responses to Did the Budget Pass the Fairness Test?

  1. Tweets that mention Did the Budget Pass the Fairness Test? | ToUChstone blog: A public policy blog from the TUC —
    Jul 22nd 2010, 8:14 am

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ToUChstone blog, UNISON East Midlands. UNISON East Midlands said: Did the Budget Pass the Fairness Test? […]

  2. VIDEO: Cuts Briefing presentations | ToUChstone blog: A public policy blog from the TUC
    Jul 22nd 2010, 1:46 pm

    […] has also done a round up of the event, which you can read here. Related posts (automatically generated):Did the Budget Pass the Fairness […]

  3. nikola
    Jul 22nd 2010, 6:54 pm

    gosh that terrible ain’t much hope!.

    People are so quick to judge, ITS NOT EASY FOR ANYONE!!!. I don’t know how the cuts are going to personally effect me but all I can do is try and adapt.

    I am one of these people that you would all look down on. Born with Autism I am on benefits and expecting my first baby. Why shouldn’t I have the chance to have children and try to lead a Normal life. Needing extra help shouldn’t be a crime.

    When I was a kid I was abused and that made my Autism worse I also suffer from mental health problems and my husband has Autism and Attention Deficit disorder.

    I personally have been to unviercity with one to one care thoughout. Achieved qualifications and at one point had 3 voluntary jobs in a supportive enivromentm. I hope to in the future go back to my voluntary work when baby is born and hope that will eventually lead to employment.

    Gud for you if you had a normal life and your lucky of not to be born with disabilities but unfortuantly I havn’t had that and to top it up i have no family. I was fostered and my partener family are all dead.

    With disabled people its one step at a time sometimes sepcailly if you have a mental disabilitiy such as autism. I look after my husband who is worse effected and probably be never able to work. I still plan to take little steps in order to fit in as much as I can in socieity one that excluses me from the start.

    So I chose to have my kids first? I only plan to have the one so i can experience motherhood and it would be loverly to think i can work and support the family after that. Its playing it by ear. Your lucky if your mind allows stress levels. Mine doesnt and its a constant battle between being able to do the best i can and doing too much that i break down then i end up costing the goverment more money cos i need care!!!. its being sensible with the abilities you have and only i know my limitations. If i were able to in the future when baby goes to school find a Job that never changes that hours are the same and are between 9.30 – 2.30 three times a week i would jump at the chance and try it out weather that cleaning or carework. There are jobs i can’t do tho because my autism causies problems such as working with money as i can’t read numbers and anything in crowds of people that involves communication with loads of mainstream people at once. and following written and verbal instuctions is impossible! All this limits my employablity and at the moment because I only just stable im best off on beneifits but not forever. I feel bad about this.

    I now also got to consider the whole family and its worth thinking if my routine chances that effects my husband too and unlike a lot of you who have family its not easy when you know you go no one to fall back on and life is a risk and that fact is harder to think about when you have autism.

    Im glad people don’t have to live like I do. Im also glad i am the way I am because it could be a lot worse. you can always see people worse off then you. why should we be bitter.

    I hope to teach my child early to make the best of its abilities whether thats hopefu8lly being completely independant and have a good job when its an adult or just learning to live. When i was diagnosed with autism i didn’t expect to ever get married go uni or have kids. Im doing all that and more and hopefully more. some people just slower at moving then others. My husband who prob always be on benefits its such an achievement for him to be married and be a dad and if he can do that in his life he achieved soo much more then what was expected. Im sorry that rich have to pay for us to live and i personlly try and make ti up by helping other disablild children. I know that no everyone is like that tho and some do get stuck on benefits that can work. but why do they do that cos they got nothing to live for and its a bad place to be. my next door nabours if the chat shows are not on choose to take drugs and shout abuse at anyone who walks past there window. What a rubbish life for them i look at them and feel sorry for them cos they are stuck worse then i am cos at least im trying. Poor them who given up. Whats the point in living if you can’t try and socialize in soceity and be part of the bigger picture. i try so hard and pray im not peainlized for being a mother a full time carer and disabled person.

  4. nikola
    Jul 22nd 2010, 6:56 pm

    if i was forsed into work now I would probably not cope become mentally unstable and have to be hospitalized and my husband would have to have to go into a care home and the chlid would end up in care. I think the goverment has more sence then that surley?