Hain attacks over Bedroom Tax hitting 1256 people in Neath

MP for Neath Peter Hain has strongly criticised the 252 Tory and Lib-Dem MP’s who voted in favour of  keeping the Bedroom Tax in vote forced by Labour on 12th November.

‘In voting to continue with the Bedroom Tax residents in Neath and our valley communities have been dealt a further devastating blow by this inept and out-of-touch Government, whose ill-conceived attacks on welfare are driving many hard-working local families to despair,’ says Mr Hain.

According to Mr Hain, latest figures from the National Housing Federation show that 1256 people in the Neath constituency are currently being penalised by the ‘punitive’ Bedroom Tax. The annual increase for those with one additional bedroom is £494 whereas those with two or more additional bedrooms incur an extra charge of £882.

Mr Hain says, ‘This policy inflicts hardship and suffering on children in poverty and people with disabilities. If Labour wins the election in 2015, we will scrap the Bedroom Tax immediately. However, for many of my constituents struggling to make ends meet, 2015 seems like a long way off.’

Mr Hain urges anybody living in his constituency affected by the Bedroom Tax to contact his office via telephone (01639 630152) or email (hainp@parliament.uk) in order to receive advice and assistance.

Hain calls for Bedroom Tax to be scrapped

MP for Neath Peter Hain has called for the ‘unfair and unworkable’ Bedroom Tax to be scrapped.

According to Mr Hain, ‘the upcoming Bedroom Tax Opposition Day debate and vote in Parliament taking place on Tuesday 12th November is a vital opportunity to scrap the punitive Bedroom Tax.’

‘I have been contacted by a number of constituents throughout Neath who have been affected by this terrible and oppressive tax,’ says Mr Hain. ‘The Bedroom Tax hits disabled and vulnerable people the hardest and may cost more than it saves. For the vast majority of those affected, there is nowhere smaller to move to, hitting vulnerable people through no fault of their own. It divides families and attacks people with chronic disabilities. It’s time to scrap this tax.’

Mr Hain would like to urge as many people as possible to sign the petition in protest of the Bedroom Tax at www.labour.org.uk/bedroomtax. People can also join the virtual lobby by using the hashtag #bedroomtax on Twitter and Facebook up to, during and on the day of the vote.

The ‘nothing for something’ society

Progress

Labour’s proposal to cut winter fuel allowances for higher-rate taxpayers suggests we may be joining the Tories and Liberal Democrats in dismantling the inheritance of Clement Attlee, Nye Bevan and William Beveridge – at the top of a slippery slope towards a US-style system of public services only for the poor.

If winter fuel allowances are to be means-tested, then does it stop with pensioners taxed at higher rates, or will the pressure be downward and then onto free TV licences and bus passes for pensioners and senior rail cards?

For lower earners these benefits are comforts guaranteed in old age; for middle-to-higher earners they are one of the few rewards received for contributions to the welfare pot throughout their working lives. If middle Britain ceases to benefit from the welfare budget through the few universal benefits now remaining, how can we convince them to fund the great bulk of that budget through their taxes? There is plenty of talk about a ‘something for nothing’ society, but there is a danger now of a ‘nothing for something’ society. Indeed, it is argued that millionaire pensioners like Paul McCartney should not be entitled to free bus passes. I rather doubt he uses one but if he did he would have paid for it over and over again through his taxes. Beveridge’s 1942 report, which became the cornerstone of the welfare system built by Labour, advocated universal contributions for universal benefits in the hope of cementing social solidarity.

Labour’s new winter fuel policy only saves an estimated £100m – tiny compared with the total social security and pensions budget of over £200bn. Yet, as I have already found in my low-income constituency, many now think Labour is after their pension allowances, too: hardly clever politics.

The total cost of the winter fuel allowance is between £2bn and £3bn a year which is less than two per cent of the total budget. Means-testing is administratively costly, time-consuming and inefficient because of the many varied combinations of assets, capital and earnings among pensioners.

If means-testing went further than Labour’s proposal it would also create real unfairness at the cliff edge for pensioners on modest or low incomes. With the stigmatisation of benefit claimants already in overdrive, cutting back on universalism will marginalise and demonise.

The coalition’s erosion of universal child benefit has created real anomalies and unfairness. A family where one parent is earning more than £50,000 loses out while a family where each parent earns £45,000 (a total of £90,000) keeps it. The horrendous spending and economic predicament an incoming Labour government would face means restoring child benefit to top-rate taxpayers at a cost of £2.3bn cannot be a priority. But it would be nice to retain it as an aim.

Finally there is the troubling question as to whether the party is being dragooned into accepting Tory-Liberal Democrat spending plans after the next election. In which case why would voters choose a half-hearted Labour surrogate when the Tories promise the real thing?

The ‘nothing for something’ society

 

Benefits Cuts ‘To Take £30m Out Of Local Economy’

Evening Post

A REPORT has claimed benefit cuts will take nearly £30 million a year out of the Neath Port Talbot economy.

Neath MP Peter Hain said the cuts to Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance would be devastating, and not only to those receiving them.

It would also, he said, hit the wider community as £30 million a year less would be spent in local shops and on local services.

The MP attacked the changes for disproportionately hitting industrial areas like Neath Port Talbot, which would lose the equivalent of £700 per working adult annually.

He said: “Neath Port Talbot’s high incapacity benefit and DLA claimant count is a legacy of the industries like coal and steel which our communities grew around and that provided employment for so many at such a cost to people’s health.”

Mr Hain’s comments follow a Sheffield Hallam University report, which showed Neath Port Talbot to be the worst affected local authority in the UK in terms of cuts to DLA with an estimated £7 million lost. It was also the second worst in terms of cuts to Incapacity Benefits with an estimated £23 million lost.

“The study shows the poorest in the country will be hit hardest by Government welfare changes with old industrial areas like Neath and Port Talbot set to be decimated by cuts across the board,” said Mr Hain.

“Across the UK an average of £470 per annum per adult of working age will be lost but the picture is far worse for many areas including Neath Port Talbot where each working age adult will be losing £700 per annum.

“The Government fails to understand that these cuts will not only impact on the individuals who will see their subsistence money cut, but also the local economy by taking millions of pounds out of it while at the same time claiming they want it to grow.

“If people don’t have the money to spend in local shops then the local high street will suffer.”

Mr Hain also criticised the “de-humanising” medical tests claimants had to go through, often leading to incorrect decisions which were reversed on appeal.

Many appeals were carried out with the help of Neath Port Talbot Council’s welfare rights unit.

He added: “The Government is expecting sick and disabled people to compete in an already over-saturated market.”

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Wrong to Cut Winter Fuel Allowance for Wealthy Pensioners

Huffington Post

There are three main problems with Labour’s proposal today to cut winter fuel allowances for higher rate tax payers. First the money raised is estimated at 100 million which is peanuts in terms of the wider welfare budget let alone total government spending.

Second it begs the question; if winter fuel allowances are to be means tested then how far does the means testing go, does it stop at fuel or will TV licences, bus passes and senior rail cards come next?

Third, if middle Britain ceased to benefit from the welfare state through some of the few universal benefits that are left, how can we convince them to fund the larger part of that budget through their taxes? The worry is this is the top of a slippery slope towards US-type system of public services for the poor only, from which President Obama has struggled to escape with his health reforms.

The attack on pensioners’ allowances leaves a big question hovering over the future of the welfare state: is it for everyone, or just for the poor? William Beveridge’s 1942 report, the cornerstone of our welfare system, advocated a universal and contribution-based welfare state in the laudable hope of cementing social solidarity. Announcements such as todays alter that original aim dismantling the very universalism upon which that solidarity relies.

Labour’s announcement comes after a rising call from Tory Iain Duncan Smith and Liberal democrat Nick Clegg to either abandon pensioners’ winter fuel allowances, free TV licences and bus passes, or to means-test and tax them citing austerity, an ageing society and acute public spending pressures as justification.

Yet the winter fuel allowance is a symbol of social cohesion and respect for senior citizenship. In total it costs between £2bn and £3bn a year which is less than 2% of the total welfare budget; so, unless the means test threshold is so low as to be worthless, there’s not a chance of making major savings. Means testing is administratively costly, time-consuming and inefficient because of the many varied combinations of assets, capital and earnings among pensioners.

If it went further than Labour’s proposal today it would also create real unfairness at the cliff edge for pensioners on modest or low incomes who could lose a key component of their independence in old age.

While these benefits are trivial, relative to the whole budget, the social and political cost of taking them away could be huge: what would this say about a society of soaring bankers’ bonuses?

For lower earners these benefits are a few comforts guaranteed to them in old age, for middle to higher earners one of the few rewards received for consistent contributions to the welfare pot throughout their working lives.

Finally today’s Labour announcement raises the troubling question as to whether the Party is being dragooned into accepting Tory-Lib Dem spending plans after the next election.  Ed Balls’ otherwise brilliant demolition of the catastrophe wreaked by the Tory Lib Dem scorched earth economics leaves that question unanswered in his speech today.

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