It cannot be described as a ‘Living Wage’

The Living Wage Foundation
The Living Wage Foundation

I am responding to MP Andrew Stephenson’s comments on the “living wage”.

He knows it is no such thing. It is merely a few pence more on what the minimum wage would have been anyway. What a nerve to call £7.20 per hour a living wage, especially if it is for a family, a clever deception by George Osborne. And it is going to be restricted to the over 25s.

When I was 25, I had two children and a mortgage. We send 18-year-olds out to die for their country, but they have to be 25 to be considered old enough for the so-called “living wage”.

What he didn’t mention, of course, is that the benefits people receive to top up poverty wages are going to be cut and will take far, far more away from people on low wages than is being given.

The poor and disabled are going to be a lot poorer and a lot of people who, at the moment, are above the poverty line will be joining them.

The biggest measure of a civilised society is how we look after our most vulnerable, our elderly, our sick, our disabled, our unemployed and our children.

And in a rich country, like Britain, we cannot claim to be responsible citizens unless we accept they are our responsibility.

The language coming from the Government is scapegoating the vulnerable, as if they were responsible for the financial crisis that hit the world’s largest economies in 2008.

When we hear the expression “women and children first”, we tend to think of lifeboats. However, our Conservative government has decided to use this criteria for those who are going to bear the brunt of their attack on the poorest members of society.

Women will be hit harder than men as they tend to have less secure jobs, very often part-time and on the lowest wages.

And, most important of all, many have the responsibility of child-care, often on their own.

Child Benefit is set at £20.70 per week for the first child and £13.70 for further children. But, from 2016, there will be no child benefit for more than two children, unless the mother can prove, without a doubt, the extra child is as a result of rape!

Last October, you printed an excellent front page story of how a third of all Pendle’s children were living in poverty. In Brierfield it was half. With the £12 billion of welfare cuts coming in, that is likely to be half of all children in Pendle by 2020, the date of the next election.

Child poverty blights childhood, and has clearly measurable, long-lasting affects in terms of educational achievement, health and, not surprisingly, earnings. In other words, it costs society more in the long term than it saves in the short term, as well as being immoral. Or are the Tories blaming the child for being born to the wrong parents?

It also hits local economies, like Pendle, as the money families receive in benefits gets spent locally.

Historically, child poverty increased dramatically under the Thatcher government, and was brought down by over a million under the Labour government.

Last year, The Institute for Fiscal Studies, using government figures, predicted that when all the benefit changes, including the new Universal Benefit, are implemented, 4.2 million children would be living in poverty by 2020.

An extra million above the figure the Tories inherited, and most of those will still be living in a working family. And that is before these latest cuts were announced.

All this, when the richest two per cent get a tax cut from 50p in the pound to 45p, costing the government three billion pounds, and will pay no inheritance when they leave a house worth £1m. to their children.

Are we really all in this together? How much of that will get spent in Pendle?

We all want people to be better off in work, but with 1.5 million unemployed and millions more unable to get enough hours, we have a duty of care to minimise, not maximise their suffering, especially the children.

Mike Warner

Liberal Pendle Cllr 1982 – 1990