Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The tax low paid workers and make them homeless bill

I thought it might be useful to offer some ideas for opponents of the government’s ‘Tax low paid workers and make them homeless’ bill.

Firstly, describe the government’s plans according to their impact, rather than using their marketing speak.  George Osborne’s plans will reduce tax relief for low paid workers and make more people homeless.  So call it the ‘tax low paid workers and make them homeless bill’, rather than the ‘Work and Welfare Reform Bill’, which is a collection of meaningless buzzwords intended to obscure and confuse people about what its impact is.

Secondly, spell out an alternative.   As the name “tax credits” suggests, they are a way of providing tax relief for low paid workers.  Rather than cutting those, we could look at the other £100 billion plus of tax reliefs which don’t go to low paid workers, and make some choices about what to prioritise.  Liz Kendall, Stella Creasy and the Resolution Foundation have already done some good work here, and we should get on with that review as soon as possible so we are ready to pose some choices in time for committee stage.

As for the government’s various plans to increase homelessness, the choice here is ‘make more children homeless and give more taxpayers’ money to bed and breakfast owners’ or ‘spend roughly the same amount of money on preventing children from being homeless’.  This isn’t even a question of head versus heart, it is a question of spite versus maths.

Thirdly, make sure the campaign is led by the people who will be affected.  Every time a Tory minister goes on the TV to sell these policies, put up a low paid worker as the Labour spokesperson to ask why Tory MPs are reducing tax relief for people who work in low paid jobs while giving themselves a pay rise. 

Challenge George Osborne to tell a family to their faces about why he’s decided that they’ve got to lose their home.  Make him live with the fear that he might have to explain to one of these ‘hardworking people’ that he likes to talk about why he’s chosen to punish them for their ‘lifestyle choice’ to work hard and try to provide for their family.

Lastly, find the common ground which unites us, rather than divides us.  The system we’ve got of giving tax relief to low paid workers and preventing homelessness was built over many years by the combined efforts of Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Kendall and their supporters.  Let’s all step away from the circular firing squad and work together to win this argument.

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