The Liberal Democrats have blown the lid on Tory plans to cut £8 billion from the child benefit bill if they are re-elected.
The Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, made a statement in which he revealed that the plans for the cuts was outlined in a document entitled “Welfare Reforms Quad Summer Reading Pack” by Iain Duncan Smith which was sent to members of Quad (the four most senior cabinet members) in June 2012.
The proposed cuts contained in the document included:
- Limiting support to 2 children in child benefit and child tax credit, so cutting up to £3,500 from a family with three children.
- Removing the higher rate child benefit from the first child, an average cut of over £360 for every family with children.
- Means testing child benefit – cutting £1,750 for a two child middle income family
- Removing child benefit from 16 to 19 year olds – a cut of over £1,000 for parents of a single child.
In a statement setting out his reasons for disclosing the existence and content of the documents, Alexander said: “I am lifting the lid on this now because the Conservatives are trying to con the British people by keeping their planned cuts secret until after the election.
“It’s clear from our time in government that the Tories target will be slashing support for families.
The Tories have stated than they plan to cut a total of £12 billion form the welfare bill if they are re-elected in May.
Among the proposals worked up by Iain Duncan Smith’s Department of Work and Pensions are:
- Taxing disability benefits: Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payments and Attendance Allowance (for over 65s who have personal care needs) would no longer be paid tax free. Saving potentially £1.5 billion a year.
- Ending the Industrial Injuries Compensation Scheme: Forcing companies to provide industrial injury insurance policy for employees. Saving £1 billion.
- Restricting Carer’s Allowance: Only those eligible for Universal Credit could claim, meaning 40 per cent of claimants would lose out. Saving £1 billion
- Scrapping contributions element of Job Seekers Allowance: Currently claimants who have paid enough National Insurance contributions can get the benefits with little means testing. Over 300,000 families, would lose about £80 per week, if they did not get full entitlement. Saving £1.3 billion over three years.
- Child Benefit cuts: Limiting the benefit to the first two children. Saving £1 billion over time.
- Regional Benefit Caps: The £23,000 limit would vary in different parts of the country, so Londoners receive the top amount due to the higher cost of living. Possible saving unknown but spells the end of universal benefits.
Yet again the Tory plans are targeted at the poor and vulnerable, who are already struggling to cope with the effects of the coalition governments ‘austerity’ measures.
It seems if they are re-elected the situation is going to be much, much worse for the disabled, low-income earners and people who are unable to work because of long-term illness or injury. Middle earners with families will also be severely affected.
Of course, Alexander’s revelations are part of the Liberal Democrats campaign for the coming election, and we would ask why it has taken nearly three years to reveal the extent of the Tory proposals.
The Liberal Democrats have failed just as much as the Tories in ensuring the UK is governed for the benefit of all its citizens – not just the privileged few.
There is no doubt whatsoever that another Tory, or coalition government involving the Tories, for another five years will be disastrous for the majority of the UK population.
We are not interested in which party is in power (or which party comes to power) and make our observations based on what is before our eyes.
Whatever the leaders say in the run-up to the election means little – especially in the case of the Tories and the Liberal Democrats. In coalition, both parties are culpable for the disgraceful and extremely bias way government has been conducted for the past five years – and both are culpable for the devastating impact of their policies on public services and the poor and vulnerable in society.
They have chosen to govern the country like greedy school-yard bullies rather than an organisation looking after the welfare of all citizens.