Dear Mr Osborne,
You claim that this budget protects pensioners and children, the most vulnerable in our society. Can I just point out that, I raise my hands to the first. you haven't totally screwed pensioners, apart from making everything more expensive (hey, but they can still get tabs and booze, so that's alright). Only those who happen to live in rented accommodation using housing benefit in London. I congratulate you though, for avoiding pretending that you weren't going to screw the poor. But can I point out a few key areas where you seem to be screwing the poor, and in fact penalising the poor who have had the temerity to have children?
1. Freezing child benefit universally for three years.
Child benefit's universality has long been a bone of contention. I'm not surprised. It does seem bizarre that thousands of families are claiming what is to them a meagre sum that they wouldn't miss, when the weekly payment is a genuine lifeline for many families. I understand that the implementation costs for trying to offer a fairer system would be high, but in what way is this fair? It disproportionately disadvantages the poor. It effectively *reduces* child benefit due to inflation over the three years. At the same time you have increased VAT to 20%, and ignoring clothes, this increases weekly food bills.
If you did want everyone to be affected, but fairly, then why didn't you tackle this fairly? Before the election, I said in a semi-flippant comment to some friends "The Tories don't care about the poor". Unfortunately, that comment seems to be more true than I imagined.
2. Quite astonishing removal of benefits to new poor Mothers
I'm almost lost for words at quite how cynical these moves are. All at the same time. All aimed at the poor. Let's go through them one by one.
a) The New Baby element of the tax credit will be abolished from April, meaning new families won't get the boost they need in the first few years when child rearing is phenomenally expensive. It currently lasts until the child is aged 1.
b) £190 grant paid to all all Mothers in the last trimester, which officially is supposed to be used on healthy food to try to reduce premature births/deaths. This of course is also used for buying baby equipment and in the general panic of trying to get everything ready. Gone. I genuinely don't understand this. Why could it not be limited to Sure Start eligible Mothers? Why has it been universally canned? I didn't benefit from this payment, it has only existed for a couple of years. It would have been nice, but I didn't need it. There are thousands of women who do. I'm flabbergasted.
c) The icing on the cake, this one. Sure Start mothers lose the £500 maternity grant to help with baby costs. I don't think I really need to voice an opinion there, do I.
D) Oh do forgive me, I entirely forgot the last item. Forcing single parents (ie: majority mothers) to go back to work when their youngest child goes to school. That is at age 4. I have a number of questions regarding this policy change. What sort of work do you expect these parents to actually do? And do you expect that work to pay enough that the rent is paid, the food bills paid for, clothing for children (never mind oneself) all in a job that starts after 9.30 (to allow for getting to the workplace after dropping the kids off at school), and finishing at 2.45 (to allow for getting back to the school to pick them up). If you think that's unrealistic and - I have to say, I would agree with you there, do you expect older siblings to take care of their younger brothers and sisters until Mummy gets home from work? Maybe a 6 year old taking a 4 year old home to get their tea together... perhaps you think that children should be looked after by childminders after school? But, ah, yes, you forgot, didn't you. Childminders cost money. Usually more money per hour than the actual money you'd be earning in your low paid job. So instead, families should get together, and combine childcaring for free... but hold on, who would be the parent who actually did the childminding, in that scenario? Because they've all been forced in to work, haven't they. I have a solution. It's brilliant. Get the mother of a younger child, say a baby or a toddler, whose emotional and intellectual development would be damaged with measurable loss by a lack of 1-1 care, to become an unregistered, unqualified childminder, with no certified childcare skills. Sit all the kids in front of the tele until their Mums come to pick them up, and you're sorted. Perfect.
I don't see these children becoming socially disadvantaged in future, do you?
3. A cap on housing benefit of £400 per week for a family house / £280 per week for single person housing.
The effect of this is going to be serious and immediate. People who live in central London who are on housing benefit have several choices: get a job immediately which will pay your rent and food bills etc (handy in the middle of a recession); b) Get in to an horrendous amount of debt or c) Move. Now.
Have you thought about the social consequences of this? Ghettos of bad housing where morale is disproportionately low amongst tenants? Forced migration out of London, where it's highly possible that your relations and community have lived for generations? It will cause forced overcrowding, with adult children unable to leave their parents because they can't afford to leave home. this measure disproportionately crucifies those in the South East and London particularly. The London housing situation is so extreme now that people who work to keep the London powerhouse economy alive have basically given up trying to buy until they are in their thirties, if at all. Renting is the norm for many working people, and that includes families. If you were to lose your job whilst renting, what would happen to your family? Your children ripped from the schools they go to, and forced migration to miserable Rackman-like housing? That last sentence reads like a nonsensical horror story but in reality that *will* happen to people. Again, Mr Osbourne you are screwing the poor. You are screwing the future chances of children, disrupted in their education, forced in to low-quality, low-self esteem housing. You are condemning already disadvantaged children.
...and all that's not even mentioning the proposed 25% cut in the education budget.
What will the consequences of all this be? Well. For poor children either being born or on the way, lower life opportunities, lower expectations, a compromised education and potentially much greater harm if they happen to live in London. The birth rate has to be affected. It can't not be. If you were a young couple and had been planning a family, it is highly likely that you now would put that back for another few years. the ramifications of a lower birth rate are many and various.
Mr Osborne. I would really like to know by what measure you believe that these cuts are fair and balanced, and show me the same potential family income cuts, in %, that you propose to take from high earners. you know, such as the 23 of 26 cabinet ministers in the coalition who are worth more than £1 million. I'm certain that you're all going to be very much affected by your pay freeze. Terribly adversely.
In short: I hate them. I can't articulate it more succinctly than that. The Tories have no idea what it's like to be poor, so they screw them, and they just don't care. It makes me want to explode with despair and anger. Those bastards.