Tory Welfare Reforms: Right Idea, Wrong Execution

After this weeks tax credit debacle, Worcester Lib Dem, Adam Warner offers his perspective on the controversial proposals

Many will remember the haunting image of Iain Duncan Smith cheering in the House of Commons as Chancellor George Osborne announced welfare changes that will see tax credits cut for millions of working families.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said that it is ‘arithmetically impossible’ for ‘no-one to lose out’ whilst the Resolution Foundation says the average family will be £1,350 worse off even with the introduction of the so-called ‘national living wage’. Even Conservative MP’s have criticized the plans with Boris Johnson saying at the Conservative Party conference this week that more must be done to ‘protect the low-paid’.

Many on the left have condemned the changes entirely and some have marched against them. This is despite the fact that the principle behind them seem reasonable. Conservatives have repeated many times that the changes are an attempt to move the UK away from a low pay, high welfare economy to a high pay, low welfare economy.

There is no doubt that this would be a desirable result. The current system of central government subsidising low pay from exploitative big business is not only inefficient but just plain wrong. Surely a system where work pays more – which it will with the national living wage set to rise to £7.20 next year and to £9 by 2020 – is a better one?

The problem lies with the scale of the proposed tax credit cuts. As aforementioned, the overall package of reforms will see millions of what the Tories call ‘hard-working families’ losing huge amounts of money. In a society where the poorest have borne the brunt of austerity these changes will look like another attack on the most vulnerable.

There are certainly aspects of the changes that are not only positive, but necessary. However, yet again the Tories have decided to appeal to the minority who reside in the right of their party by sending out a message that they are ‘tough on welfare’ and ‘scroungers’ instead of doing what’s right for the millions of low paid workers in this country who do not earn enough to sustain a reasonable standard of living.

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