My sense of living in a parallel universe with Local and national Tories reached a new and scary level this morning when I caught a glimpse of the Tory Press headlines about yesterday's appalling Budget statement. A triumph they call it. Hurrah for the children of the rich who shall inherit the earth free of tax. Hurrah for those on handsome incomes who won't have to pay higher rate tax for longer than now, and hurrah for....... Well I'm not really sure what else they are celebrating.
The stark reality for those I represent, for those who need help even though they are hard working, for those who are poorly paid and those who are single parents struggling to make ends meet, seems to me to be as follows:
- George Osborne has invented something he calls 'The Living Wage'. What a total nonsense! It will start at £7.20 nearly a year from now. Is the stupid man not aware that the Living Wage is already £7.85 for those who live outside London, and £9.15 for those who live in London. Oh and by the way no-one will be entitled to a non-living wage until they are 25. What are they meant to do before that? As the Living Wage Foundation points out, this budget raises several important questions. Those of us who live in North Herts. know full well that living costs here, especially for those who have to travel to work, are virtually the same as for people in London. So what on earth is Osborne's 'Living Wage' other than a grotesque lie and an insult.
- Working and Child Tax Credits have kept afloat many, many, struggling families since they were introduced by the Labour Government in April 2003. Now they are to be cut off at the knees and we find we live in a country where government makes it clear that hardworking people in low-paid jobs are only allowed to have two children (unless the third child is a product of a multiple birth). Isn't that what Tories call a 'Nanny State'? Isn't that something they think is wrong? I think it used to be, but not any more apparently.
- It is quite clear that some of those worse affected by this dreadful budget are women. Almost the worst piece of discrimination is the announcement that public sector workers will only be entitled to a 1% pay rise for the next 4 years. Apart from my curiosity about how public sector workers are less deserving than those in the private sector, this is, of course, a double blow to women. They are the majority of public sector workers and therefore the most affected. But worse than that - many of them are on very, very, low wages - well below the living wage or the less-than-living-wage now proposed by Osborne. 1% of very little is incredibly little indeed and consigns many women, and their families, to a level of poverty from which there is no escape. The food banks are here to stay I fear, especially with the capping and cutting of Tax Credits.
And so there you are. Twice in a week Tory Governments Locally and Nationally treat the people I represent with disdain and insult. It's all so incredibly depressing.
Judi Billing MBE
County Councillor, Hitchin North
North Herts. District Councillor, Hitchin Bearton