Friday, 28 June 2013

The disgraceful falsehood of Mr Osborne's spending review

Mr Osborne's spending cuts are based on a falsehood. He says the cuts in welfare spending are necessary to "end the something-for-nothing culture."  As the government has repeatedly done, they seek to portray those in receipt of benefits as 'scroungers'. It is of course an electoral ploy. Mr Osborne knows that he is on a winner with that kind of stereotype. It feeds the public mythology. But it is dishonest and unethical.

Mr Osborne knows that the majority of those receiving benefits are in work. He knows also that, far from receiving something-for-nothing, most of them are receiving below subsistence wages. It is not those on benefits who have become 'welfare dependent'; it is the companies who pay such derisory wages who have become dependent on a low pay workforce subsidised by welfare.

The Office for National Statistics data on employment reveals the problem. More and more people are having to work part time for low wages, and where many of them would like to work more hours they are not able to because the work isn't available.

Since the financial crash the numbers of working people classified as 'underemployed' has increased by almost a million, 980,000 since 2008.  There are now over 3 million workers classified as underemployed. That is 1 in 10 of the UK workforce.  These workers are not 'something-for-nothing scroungers'. Theirs is a culture of work, yet they are being targeted and stigmatised by this unethical and disgraceful government approach.

It affects particularly low-skilled workers, where 23% are 'underemployed'. We should note again that what that means is that they are not able to increase their hours of work to earn a living wage. They are cleaners and bar staff and dinner ladies. They are also the people who help our children cross the road. They are doing worthwhile jobs for which they receive on average just £7.49 an hour. But that is an average because many receive less.

These are good folk who are not only working hard, but who would like the opportunity to work more to make ends meet, to put food on the the table and pay the rent. These are decent people who don't deserve to be stigmatised as if they were cheating the system because they receive benefits. They are the people being hurt by Osborne's cuts.

Mr Osborne, Mr Cameron, Mr Clegg and Mr Duncan Smith should be ashamed of themselves, because they know these truths. Yet they still peddle the myth that the welfare bill is high because people don't want to work. On the contrary, there are more people employed part time now and they want to work more hours.


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