While a recent piece by the Wessex Scene suggested that the first Conservative budget since 1996 was ‘progressive’ and for ‘people of all walks of life’, many of the measures introduced by George Osborne will in fact hit poor people hardest and damage the nation in the long run.
This article is not an attempt to vilify austerity as a whole, or an attempt to vindicate a ‘borrowing culture'; these are questions for another day. This is merely an examination of Osborne’s budget, and an attempt to establish who it truly benefits.
Osborne described his budget as “Bold in building the aspirations of working people”. Like much of what is said by politicians, this is bollocks.
A great budget. As long as you're over 25, own a house, have a well-paid job, live in the South East and aren't ill or disabled
— David Schneider ()
It is important to give credit where credit is due, and there were several measures in the budget which could indeed benefit society as a whole. Osborne introduced measures to restrict tax breaks for landlords, who have been prospering under help-to-buy schemes which were aimed at helping first time buyers.
A tax-free personal savings allowance was also introduced, with basic rate taxpayers being able to claim a tax-free £1000 of interest on savings. It is hard to argue that more easily accessible housing and interest payouts on small savings are particularly awful.
The difficulty many have with the budget as a whole is that many of the measures it contains, including those just mentioned, seem to indirectly help the working classes, whilst being of much more use to the middle and upper classes.
Benefit fraud: £1.2bn Benefits unclaimed: £16bn Tax dodging: £25-120 BILLION No guesses for which one the Tories want to clamp down on…
— George Aylett ()
Some would go further and say that the budget constituted an attack on the poorest in society, and there is evidence to back up these claims.
The new Living Wage, heralded by many Conservatives as an olive branch for the working classes, is not all it seems. For one, it differs from a minimum wage as it is not technically compulsory, with many employers still paying below Osborne’s suggestion. You must also remember that the £9 living wage has only been pledged for 2020, with incremental rises up to that year whilst many of the cuts to welfare in the budget are effective immediately.
The budget contained a large number of measures which are terrifying for those under the age of 25. For starters, the living wage does not apply to them, despite the fact that they are amongst those hit by the cut to tax credits.
Those under the age of 21 will no longer receive housing benefits, trapping young adults unable to afford a mortgage in their parents’ homes. Higher education is now even less appealing to those from low-income families, as Osborne has abolished student grants and replaced them with more loans, which are subject to inflation and will increase student debt to even higher levels.
One measure which seems to have gone under the radar, or which has at least had its abhorrence severely underestimated, is the cut to tax credits for families with more than two children. At its core, this dystopian and intrusive cut is the government saying ‘If you are poor, you are not allowed more than two children’.
Many of us are shocked when we recall the Chinese ‘One Child’ policy, as it affects the sacrosanct personal freedom of the family, and Osborne’s cut is almost a move towards such a governmental attitude. It’s borderline eugenics in action.
So who is one of 4 children, is essentially restricting this possibility for other families as they're not as rich as him…
— Siobhan ()
Mhairi Black, Britain’s youngest MP, recently delivered a passionate maiden speech in the House of Commons. Despite the claims made by the Conservatives, such as that the poorest in society are in a better position than ever, she highlighted the vast increase in food bank usage, and the fact that many of those sitting in the Commons are dangerously out of touch. Food banks, as she says, are not a part of the welfare system but a reaction to a system that is grossly failing those it is meant to protect.
The fact is that while our MP’s have just voted to give themselves a pay rise, more Brits than ever are struggling to eat.The fact is that while our aging population will one day need the help and support of this generation, they are taking opportunities away from us which they were given for free.
This is the essence of the Conservative budget. While some of the poorest may benefit from some of the measures, this wasn’t Osborne’s primary objective. To say that he is a ‘man of the people’ isn’t just wrong, but dangerous, as you blind yourself to the harsh reality of overused food banks, a wounded youth population and an increasingly divided society.
No, I don’t think that people should willfully rely on handouts, or that people who fraudulently claim benefits should be allowed to do so. But despite what The Sun and Co would have you believe, the majority are not cheats or thieves but those genuinely in need of our help, and refusing it to them, branding them drains and casting them out, is a deeply inhuman course of action, and not one which a ‘man of the people’ would adopt.