Labour, according to a piece in the Guardian, wants to reduce the number of food banks in the UK if it comes to power. Rachel Reeves, or as we call her, Labour’s Iain Duncan Smith, says that their use is a sign of a failed Welfare State.
Well, what can we say? Whoops of joy from us at Munguin’s Republic. A real radical government that would like to see the use of food banks reduced!
There are, rather surprisingly in our opinion, no government statistics on the use of food banks, but the Trussell Trust says that 913,138 people used them in 2013-2014. And there are other food banks providers, besides Trussel.
What other changes could we expect from reeves? She would, she says, immediately instruct Jobcentre staff that they would not be rewarded for the numbers of sanctions they distribute. Mr Duncan Smith has always denied that staff are currently rewarded for this, so unless he is lying, I can’t see that it will make much difference. The management of the job centres need to get cost reductions somehow.
Just in case you thought she was being all soft and human about it, Reeves says: “We are not the party of people on benefits. We don’t want to be seen, and we’re not, the party to represent those who are out of work,” “Labour are a party of working people, formed for and by working people.”
So there you go. Straight from the horse’s mouth and echoing the sentiments of hard right winger, Tom Harris, if you are out of work, Labour is not the party for you. Rachel, of course, may never have met an ordinary person in her life, having attended a posh girls school and gone up to Oxford for her education.
She famously said that Labour would be tougher than the Tories when it came to cutting the Social Security bill so how are they going to be harder and softer at the same time?
As you might expect in the current climate, EU citizens would lose entitlement to benefits for the first two years in the UK. Although, as most EU citizens in the UK work, it’s unlikely that that will make a huge difference, and it may have a reciprocal effect on UK citizens living in the EU.
She would maintain the benefit cap brought in by the Tories with the intention of reducing it, everywhere except London. So, that's tough if you live in another area with high rents and costs.
She has also indicated that she would legislate to remove the bedroom tax from the statute book, but failed to make it clear whether this was the bedroom tax that the Tories introduced for social housing, or the one that Labour introduced for privately rented accommodation.
She has also said that she would stop the roll out of the Universal Credit fiasco that Iain Duncan Smith has overseen, and hold a review of the policy.
Essentially, it seems, she agrees with the principles in IDS's scheme, but is somewhat dubious about whether or not it can be delivered and whether they can get the notoriously dodgy IT to actually work.
Her aim is to cut the “welfare” bill by £8 billion, but when she outlines how she intends to meet that target her ideas descend into the realms of fantasy.
“The big savings to be had are by tackling the root causes of the benefits bill. If every young person who can work is working and if people are paid a wage that they can afford to live on, so they don’t have to draw down on housing benefit and tax credit, then that’s going to save a lot more money than all the talk in the world about shirkers and scroungers.”
Ahhhh Rachel. Where do we start?
Things must be very simple in your rose coloured, perfect world of Westminster.
The trouble is that many young people can’t find work, because they are woefully under qualified, unsuited to the kind of work that is available or blighted by illness, addiction or criminal records. Employers are fussy about these things.
Employers are also fussy about paying bigger wages. They have been used to getting away with paying the minimum wage of £6.50*, well under the living wage of £9.15 in London and £7.85 elsewhere. (Although this is clearly ridiculous, as the cost of living is not universal across the rest of the union.) As Labour's own goal is a minimum wage of £8 by 2020, I seeing a disjunct there.
Young people of course are not the only ones who have a problem getting work. Older people often find that they are barriers to work too. Lack of IT skills, lack of stamina, out of date attitudes, lack of street cred in a young person's world. (Seriously, which clothes shop is employing 55 year olds to sell kids fashions? Employers are fussy about this too. It's called image!)
Often when people do find a job, the work is badly paid, or intermittent, with zero hour contracts, on which they cannot afford to live and this makes them dependent on benefits. In many cases they earn less per week than their rent and council tax.
Because of the lack of council housing, many are forced into privately rented accommodation. And thanks to the mad system, introduced by Labour, of setting an area maximum rent allowance, paid without question or inspection of the property, many of the rents set by these private landlords for slum property, are astronomical.
There seems to me no doubt that a preposterously low minimum wage, and ridiculously low expectation of any increase in it must be accompanied by some very serious control of rents, and a massive building programme of REALLY affordable rented accommodation in the public sector all over the union.
You can’t feel but feel that Rachel has a lot to learn before she takes up a job of this magnitude.