Mickey Brady: Why Welfare cuts must be opposed

As the debate continues on over welfare reform, Sinn Fein MLA and Deputy Chairman of the DSD Committee, Mickey Brady, writes for Slugger about why proposed cuts should be opposed.

The Tory-led coalition has sought to sell welfare cuts on the false premise of Strivers verses Skivers.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The cuts agenda will affect low-income working families, people with disabilities, those who cannot find employment because there are no jobs available, the young and the most disadvantaged within our society.

We are not dealing with a welfare reform programme – we are witnessing a concerted attempt to undermine and eventually dismantle the welfare state in favour of an American style free market system.

Sinn Féin has stated its position very clearly. We reject this attack on the most vulnerable in our society.

Unionists can’t depend on the DUP to protect them from the Tory cuts agenda.  Their pursuit of power means that they are intent on getting into bed with the Tories at the expense of the working-class communities they claim to represent.

They have acted with contempt for their own electorate, claiming to be against the cuts while arguing for their imposition.  They are prepared to decimate the living standards of the people who elected them at the bidding of a cabinet of millionaires.

Sinn Féin will fight welfare cuts because it is the right thing to do. We are of the view that the Executive parties should stand together against welfare cuts being imposed by a cabinet, which we did not elect.

All three main British parties have shown that they can offer significant extra powers to Scotland in terms of spending, taxation, health service and crucially welfare. This makes a mockery of the so-called parity principle where we are told Westminster governs all welfare and taxation decisions.

The pledge signed by the leaders of the three main British parties in relation to Scotland is evidence that the economic challenges faced by the Executive can be overcome if we present a united front.

It places the one size fits all cuts agenda in the farcical category. Threats that if we do not agree to Tory driven welfare cuts, we will be penalised is undermined by the Tory’s own offers to Scotland.

If Unionist parties want to inflict these devastating cuts on working-class unionists as well as on the rest of us, then they should bring the legislation onto the floor of the Assembly. They can then explain their support for Tory cuts.

All those elected by the people should have the opportunity to fully debate their position on these cuts and to vote on this bill.

We will defend and stand with the working class-communities that the Tories are targeting.

If Mervyn Storey, on behalf of the DUP refuses to bring the Bill to the floor of the Assembly then the only other option is to put it directly to the people in an election. Sinn Féin has no fear of an election.

Cracks are already appearing in the Westminster Coalition with Liberal Democrats joining with the Labour Party in a revolt against the Bedroom Tax.  Shadow Work and Pensions Minister Rachel Reeves is on record saying: “What we have seen so far is a huge waste of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money and endless delays to the project.”

Westminster Public Accounts Committee claims as of November last year, £425m – the majority of which it expects to be wasted has been spent on the roll-out of Universal Credit.

These millions of taxpayers’ money have been wasted, with less than 16,000 people on the Universal Credits system despite claims that a million would be on it by April 2014. Even Tory Minister Francis Maude, has said that the roll out was, ‘lamentable’.

If the Unionist parties – including Alliance – succeed in imposing the Tory cuts agenda, the impact locally will mean:

242,000 families here will have their child benefit cut;

All families in receipt of working or child tax credits will lose benefits;

66,000 people unable to work due to illness or disability will lose on average £3,500 a year;

Disabled people usually rely on several benefits and are therefore more liable to be hit by more than one cut – in some cases by four or five;

Families with disabled children currently receive an extra £54 per week from child tax credit, but that will be reduced by half when universal credit is introduced: about £1,400 a year for a family with a disabled child;

£750 million a year will be lost to the 6-county economy with devastating consequences for SMEs and suppliers.

Under the presently proposed Benefit Cap some 640 households and 3,120 children will be driven into poverty, losing £1.7m per annum.  If the Tories are returned after next year’s election and Cameron fulfils his threat to reduce the benefits cap even further from £26,000 to £23,000 it will affect hundreds more households, increase hardship and drive more people deeper into poverty with the devastating knock-on effect the reduction in disposable income will have for the local economy.

Make no mistake about it; the cuts agenda will have ramifications far beyond those depending on benefits. It will negatively impact on every family and business in the North.

This is a guest slot to give a platform for new writers either as a one off, or a prelude to becoming part of the regular Slugger team.