In early October, we will see Universal Credit cut by £20 a week to individuals and families in the town of Rochdale and across the country. It is estimated that in Rochdale, some 5000 families with children will be hit by this and that involves some 10,000 children. Many of these are families with one or both parents in work. The impact will take money from the shops and businesses in the order of tens of millions of pounds and that means jobs.
Early next year we’ll see the government increase National Insurance contributions for many people in work and that will hit again many of the same families and many others as well. Ironically, because National Insurance contributions are capped above a certain income level, the better off will pay less and some a far less percentage of their income than those on lower pay. Oddly those still working over retirement age don’t pay National Insurance so the working well-off will not make a contribution equivalent to those much lower down the income ladder.
For me this is about the values of our society. Do we look after those amongst us who are at that point in life when they are struggling financially? Rochdale people say ‘Yes, we should’ and they put their hands in their pockets to help. That’s why, for example, the Foodbank in Rochdale is helping so many and other charities are playing an equally important role. That’s why Marcus Rashford saw such strong support when he stood up for children and demanded free school meals for those school children in need.
The overwhelming majority of us want a sense of proportion and social justice in our society. The Conservative Party will have its national conference down the road in Manchester in a week in early October. Rich donors, who will benefit from these cuts to the low paid, will be there to cheer government ministers and especially Prime Minister Johnson when he makes his conference speech. It’s a little ironic that that is the same week, I understand, when Universal Credit will be cut.
This article was originally published in the Rochdale Observer on 18 September 2021.