First it was Conservative MPs David Davis and Steven McPartland. Then it was The Sun – long the mouthpiece of the Tory party. And now this week, former leaders of the Anglican Church – historically supporters of Conservative policies – have slammed the government’s cuts to working tax credits.
Lord Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury until 2002, recounted to the Mirror on Sunday (October 11) his experiences in low-paid work, and how he was supported by the state.
“I well remember as a young and poorly paid clergyman needing the help of the state in the form of family income support,” he said.
“My wife and I would have struggled to provide for our family without it,” he added. “I support the aim of the government to make work pay and put in place a reasonable cap on welfare payments.
“But I urge the government to reconsider these particular cuts to working tax credits that will hit many hardworking families very hard indeed.”
Lord Carey’s comments echoed his successor Lord Williams, who also came out against cuts to tax credits in an interview with the Sun.
No proper security
“There should be no debate about the aim of getting more people into employment. But it won’t do to organise the system so that employment brings no advantages and no proper security for working people and their children.
“I don’t think this is a party political issue,” he added. “It ought to be agreed common sense and compassion.”
Comments from the former heads of the Anglican Church follow a surprise campaign by The Sun calling on chancellor George Osborne to put an end to cuts in tax credits. As the paper launched the campaign, it called the tax credit cuts “bonkers”.
If the cuts go through, more than lower-paid households will lose out on an average of £1000 a year, according to a recent report.
The government has justified these cuts by arguing that a higher minimum wage, set to go up to £9 an hour by 2020, will counteract any cuts to tax credits.
But the same report notes that for low-income families to feel any benefit from the changes to tax and benefits, the minimum wage would have to go up to nearly £12 an hour now.
Families who will be effected by tax credit cuts, should they come into force, will receive notices just before Christmas.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner argued that Lord Carey and Lord Williams’ most recent comments against tax credit cuts demonstrates the momentum gathering against the government’s austerity regime.
“Lord Carey and his successor Lord Williams are not your usual ardent supporters of the welfare state,” Turner noted.
“But they, along with many other Conservative-minded figureheads, are coming out against one of the most vicious cuts in a generation. And that’s because they know what we all know – that slashing £4.4bn’s worth of tax credits is a vindictive assault on low-income families.”
“The Tory leadership says it wants to make work pay,” he added. “But if you look at the details in their budget, cuts to tax credits actually create a disincentive to work.
“The only conclusion that can be drawn from this government’s hard-line austerity agenda is that they’re ideologically motivated by greed; that they’re driven by their paymasters in the City, who will gladly decimate low-income households so that they’ll have some extra cash on top of their already sky-high mountain of millions; and that their contempt for working families knows no bounds.
“It’s not too late to reverse these cuts,” Turner went on to say. “We call on the government to listen not only to their opponents – but also those who are often their natural allies – to stop this assault on the working poor and come up with sensible policies that actually help grow the economy instead of choking it.”