I can rarely remember a Budget over which there has already been so much speculation, concern and fear. And the announcements we will hear on Wednesday are not even the annual budget the Chancellor is required to present every March. This is ‘an emergency summer budget’ – made necessary because the Tories pledged to make £12 billion in welfare savings before the Election, without any idea of how they could do so.
Over the past few weeks I have been contacted by scores of local people who are worried about where the axe will fall. Will it be further changes to the support given to disabled people? Or will we see housing benefit cut for young people who are out of work? It now seems certain that George Osborne will use his new Budget to undercut the tax credits that so many families rely on to get by.
Well, well. I hear David Cameron has parachuted into Longbridge today. You know the kind of thing: quick photo opportunity with hard hat, Tory candidate in tow and meet as few local people as possible. We’ve seen quite a few of these flag waving visits from Tory ministers in recent months.
It’s a pity the rest of us couldn’t ask Mr Cameron a few questions during his whistle-stop today, about what his Conservative cheerleaders in Northfield have been saying on his behalf recently.
Rachel has two children, aged 4 and 10. She is a care worker on the minimum wage. She recently had her hours cut and is now losing tax credits too. She is also being asked to pay £14 per week Bedroom Tax. It’s difficult for her to make ends meet.
Anne Marie, from Frankley, is also being charged Bedroom Tax since her marriage split up and her son left home. She is disabled. Her case exposes the hollowness of Tory claims that the Bedroom Tax does not hit people with disabilities. My office has been making representations on her behalf and she is getting some discretionary help from the Council. But this is short term and she does not know what the future will bring.
I’ve been contacted by many local people who have told me that they are struggling to cope with the hated bedroom tax, introduced by the Tories and Liberal Democrats in Westminster. The Bedroom Tax is affecting over 13,000 households in Birmingham and over 1300 in the Northfield area alone.
People receiving housing benefit, who live in council or housing association homes with a spare bedroom, face a choice between paying £600 more a year or moving home. But as I know all too well from my constituents, there often is not the choice.
Just three years ago David Cameron praised the SWEET Project for their work in protecting children and families in South West Birmingham, and providing students with practical experience needed for social work. The organisation has helped train over 400 students from 26 universities from across the UK. But now the Government’s rushed cuts to social work education are putting that at risk.