In a sign of how out of touch he has become, George Osborne yesterday said the Welsh government’s opposition to the coalition’s welfare reforms was "unbelievable".
In a sign of how out of touch he has become, George Osborne yesterday said the Welsh government’s opposition to the coalition’s welfare reforms was “unbelievable”.
The chancellor was speaking during a visit to a nursery in Cardiff to promote his plans for parents to be able to obtain tax-free childcare vouchers worth up to £1,200 per child a year from 2015.
As a number of the UK government’s benefit cuts, including the bedroom tax, came into force on Monday, the Welsh minister for communities and tackling poverty Huw Lewis declared the changes to be “historically catastrophic for Wales“, and he argued that the changes would push families in some communities into “near destitution”.
In February, data produced by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) for the Welsh government found that reforms announced before December’s autumn statement will reduce total benefit and tax credit entitlements in Wales by around £590 million in 2014-15. In November, the Welsh Tenants Federation warned that up to 4,000 people could found themselves homelessness as a result of the bedroom tax alone.
Despite the grim realities of his government’s own changes, however, George Osborne expressed surprise that the Welsh government has serious concerns about the impact of the reforms on families across Wales. Using Daily Mail-style rhetoric, the chancellor argued that “hard-working people who pay their taxes” are getting angry at seeing “the benefits system abused.”
Once again using a very unique situation to tarnish all those on benefits he continued by speaking of “a system where some people are getting £100,000 a year in housing benefit, something that is far beyond the reach of most working families.” He continued:
“We are saying let’s have a benefit cap where you don’t get more than £26,000 a year in benefits. Unbelievably, the Welsh Assembly government and the Labour Party in Wales oppose that.
“So they actually want hard-working Welsh people to pay their taxes so that people can have more than £26,000 a year in benefits, I think that is totally indefensible.
“I think the Welsh assembly government needs to explain why they think it’s right for hard-working families to pay for benefits for lifestyles that would be very difficult for a lot of people in Wales to afford.”
Responding however, the minister in Wales Huw Lewis accused the chancellor of misrepresenting Cardiff Bay’s position. He commented:
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“No one is arguing against reforming the welfare system for the better, but the UK government’s new rules will simply hit hard working families on low incomes and some of the most vulnerable people in Wales.
“This isn’t an issue about so-called ‘scroungers’ versus the rest of us, but about thousands of hard working people who go to work to provide for their families now finding themselves coming under increasing pressure to afford their day-to-day-living costs.
“Some will have to make a decision between heating or food. Many will have to leave homes they have lived in for years.
“Where is the evidence that these changes will actually improve people’s lives or get people back into work? The reality is the welfare changes will take almost half a billion pounds out of the Welsh economy by next year and squeeze people’s quality of life. The Welsh government will do all we can to help people through these tough times.”
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