‘An insult to every working family’ screamed the Daily Mail in response to the House of Lords voting in favour of amending the government’s controversial Bill proposing a cap on welfare payments. The welfare cap would mean no household could claim more than £26,000 in benefits. According to David Cameron this cap was proposed in the interest of fairness. Why, the prime minister asks, should those on benefits receive more than those who work for a living? Indeed £26,000 seems like a huge sum of money, which is why at the present time only 0.2% of UK households claim more than this. If the benefit cap was to be instated it would not affect the type of families the Conservative party so dislikes – single parents with many children in households where no one has ever worked. It will be stable families who have previously been employed on low to middle incomes, who were not rich enough to buy a house but not poor enough to qualify for social housing.
The reason why these types of families receive so much in benefits is simple; the majority of it goes towards rent. For a large family living in the south east of England where rents are highest the benefit cap will make life virtually impossible. By cutting housing benefit to £100 a week (which is what the cap will mean), after paying council tax and utility bills a family with four children would have 62p per person per day to live on. Of course, the government argues that times are tough and we need to save money. After Gordon Brown singlehandedly crashed the global economy and plunged the world into recession we can no longer afford to support the poorest and most vulnerable in society. And anyway, it’s not just the poor who are suffering; we are all in this together! In the same week the welfare cap was proposed, the government could only afford to offer Stephen Hester, head of the failing, state owned Royal Bank of Scotland, a bonus of £963,000 on top of his £1.2 million salary. In these times of austerity the government believes that it is only fair that banker’s bonuses are capped at one million pounds.
Under this Tory led coalition it is easy to become blinded to the real problems at hand and more importantly to forget who were really responsible for creating them in the first place. The government would rather we channelled our anger towards those on benefits, ‘the scroungers’ or undeserving poor, rather than those at the top who caused the crash and who were subsequently bailed out with billions of pounds of tax payers money. The financial crisis was not caused because the last Labour government gave out too many benefits or overspent recklessly on healthcare and education. The savings made from this welfare cap are so miniscule it will do virtually nothing to reduce the deficit; arguably it will end up costing more than it saves. The cap is purely ideological, intended to drain any level of public sympathy towards those at the bottom of society whilst the people at the top who ruined the economy continue to be rewarded.
The Bangor University Labour group is currently running a campaign to ensure that every member of staff employed by the university earns a sufficient amount to support themselves and their families. A small cut to the Vice Chancellors salary would ensure this. If you believe in a fair wage and a decent standard of living for all then sign the Living Wage petition on www.gopetition.com/petitions/living-wage-bangor-uni.html.