Hear hear, no, don’t ooook over there…
Mr Deputy Speaker had a hard task on his hands today, as the Chancellor announced the summer budget. Jeers, hear hears and general defiance could be heard throughout George Osborne’s speech, along with cameramen pulling in tight on the Chancellor to avoid filming the ensuing chaos.
Osborne repeatedly pointed out that the country needs a Conservative government; they have what it takes to get things done – unless you’re under 25. Or don’t have job security. Or you’re a landlord (or indeed tenant). Or God forbid you breed more than twice.
Welfare cuts of a staggering £12bn have been outlined, less than half that is set to be made in revenue from off-shore accounts and other illegal tax avoidance.
Rather interestingly, HMRC figures for 2012/13 show that tax evasion accounts for losses four times as much as benefit fraud, standing at a whopping £4.1bn.
On closer inspection, these cuts include restricting child tax credits to two children for those born after 2017. If this is the case I’m intrigued to see how the childcare element (which is set to be increased to 30 free hours) will come into play for the third and subsequent offspring in families.
Tax credits have enabled families to get back to work (which is what our government so sorely wants, no, demands – regardless of situation) in a way they never could have done 20 years ago.
In addition, the benefits cap is set to be slashed by £6,000; down to £23k in London and £20k outside respectively. On paper this looks all well and good, but it’s the practical our government seem ill prepared for.
Osborne declares that those ‘who can work are expected to look for work’, parents of children three or over (as opposed to five) will now be forced to find work, and accept any that comes their way, to be eligible for universal credit.
Meanwhile the big hurrah of the day is the national living wage teetering on the horizon. Employers will be forced to pay £7.20 to workers, rising to nine pounds in 2020. The NLW has been advocated by, well, everyone, and can’t come too soon. As long as you’re over 25.
In fact, young people across the board seemed to have been quite literally pushed off it. Not only are they not included in the new wage reforms, they will no longer be eligible for automatic acceptance with housing benefit if they are between 18 and 21.
The government seems to think that young adults can just live a happy, poverty stricken state of existence living in their parents loft room. Lord help them if their folks live in social housing, they’ll have to pay bedroom tax. There is also set to be a ‘youth obligation’ scheme in which 18 to 21 year olds are expected to ‘earn or learn’.
On top of this, maintenance grants for university students from the poorest backgrounds are set to be scrapped in favour of loans. Leaving graduates with yet more debt, alas not to fear the UK’s GDP will be shiny as a new penny.
The Chancellor tells us that there are more students attending university than ever, disproving Labour’s theory that the loan increases would put lower income families off. On the contrary; as it is, going to university enables people to receive a steady stream of income for the span of their degree, including allowances for flexible working hours and childcare.
Leaving with what easily amounts as decades worth of debt (and little prospect of a graduate job), I fear the Conservatives have eroded the crumbling walls of our upcoming generation too much this time.