It seems that Christmas and New Year celebrations are the two most favorite holidays of the year across the globe. However, summing up the results of last year, few could say that it was a success. Most of us expected that the new year would bring us long-awaited miracles fulfilling our secret wishes and dreams. But it seems that the year 2016 will only strengthen the sense of isolation and sadness that many in the West now share.
That’s exactly the reason why the “Christmas message” of the British Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith has attracted a lot of attention. This member of the Conservative Party hasn’t promised any improvements in the social conditions of the population throughout the kingdom, and instead has advised thousands of his fellow citizens affected by massive cuts in social benefits to work an additional 200 hours a year.
After all, the fact that up to 2.6 million families lost up to 1,600 pounds a year in social benefits is a direct result of the Tory’s unified system of social benefits, or the so-called Universal Credit. Responding to questions from the parliamentary committee on Social Security, which urged him to review the UK’s social policy, Duncan Smith said: “For example, someone could recoup the loss from the Work Allowance changes by working 3-4 additional hours a week.”
David Cameron has admitted that he’s “delighted” by his government’s move on cutting vital tax credits for hard working people. The Shadow Minister of the Labour Party, Jonathan Ashworth, while commenting on this statement of the British PM, noted that David Cameron has shown the true face of the Tory party.
In turn, while commenting on this “Christmas message” of the government, the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Owen Smith, said that the goals that Cameron’s government has been pursuing all through 2015 are inhumane, and that Iain Duncan Smith is trying to force UK citizens to pay for the government’s own failed policies. A similar conclusion has been made by experts at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, notes The Independent. As evidenced by the study conducted by the Trade Union Congress, the only natural result of the ongoing reforms will be the fact that the poor will pay for the rich. It is therefore not surprising that British millionaires are lobbying the reduction in tax benefits for the poor, notes the Daily Mirror observer.
According to the UK Office for Budget Responsibility, today British households moved from a surplus of 67 billion pounds in 2010 when the coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats came to power, to 40 billion pounds in debt, The Guardian reports. Therefore, the British Labour Party has been desperate to draw the attention of the sitting government to the fact that millions of families across the country will inevitably face financial difficulties if interest rates start to grow. The shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury from the Labour Party, Seema Malhotra, is convinced that George Osborne should seek ways to balance the economy and to avoid excessive reliance on debt borrowing. The former Business Secretary Sir Vince Cable has voiced his fears that Britain is back to “the old and discredited” methods of encouraging economic growth, that is based on “personal loans”.
According to human rights experts from Citizens Advice, the shortcomings of the Universal Credit system will make thousands of British citizens hungry and poor. According to the UK government, estimates of up to 8 million poor citizens should be receiving social benefits, but last October only 141,000 people did so. At the same time the notorious 1% of the rich people in the UK keep getting increasingly wealthy at a breakneck pace.
The report presented on Christmas Eve in the House of Commons indicates that the number of families with children living in Bed and Breakfast (B&Bs) guest houses in England has increased by 45% in the first half of 2015. As the shadow Housing Minister of the Labour Party John Healey underlined, the study of the Department for Communities and Local Government shows that in the period that David Cameron has been Prime Minister, the number of homeless people in Britain increased by one third, reaching a record level over the last decade. It’s a sad fact that the majority of those homeless in the UK are the representatives of different ethnic minorities. John Healey has also presented evidence that another 440,000 citizens may lose their housing in the near future due to the cuts in social benefits that were announced last fall.
Those cuts have also led to a “substantial increase” in the number of those who turn to food banks for physical survival, says the Huffington Post. Adrian Curtis, the head of the Trussell Trust food bank notes there’s an “alarmingly high level” of those who face shortage of food in the UK, adding: “When the proposed changes to tax credits are implemented, we are concerned that more working families will not be able to make ends meet, and that we could see a substantial rise in foodbank use as a result.”
Despite the fact that at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Prime Minister David Cameron promised to launch an all-out assault on poverty, the Conservative government’s policies are only making it much worse, notes The Guardian. According to the Resolution Foundation Fund’s latest report, Cameron’s policies will lead to the number of poor people in the UK reaching a staggering 4 million by 2020.
For sure, it will only be in five years and only if the Tories retain their positions in the government. But are there political forces in the UK capable of changing the situation for the best? What do you think?
Martin Berger is a Czech-based freelance journalist and analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.