Tax credit cuts versus the deficit? Ahead of the spending review one individual reacts to cuts - and to calls for families to cut their spending
On Wednesday next (November 25), the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne MP, will deliver the results of the government's spending review - or in everyday language, he will be spelling out the next round of cuts.
It is expected that his statement to Parliament will include the Treasury's response to the overturning by the House of Lords Osborne's cuts of £4.4 billion to in-work benefits - the tax credit cuts, which have also been condemned by some Conservative MPs.
Marlborough News Online has been talking to a single mother who lives just outside the Marlborough area. She had been distressed by the comments by the Sports Minister Tracey Crouch MP about people not taking responsibility for their budgeting. As Ms Crouch put it:
"I’m talking about some very individual cases – and actually they just haven’t realised some of the savings that they need to make themselves, you know it can be … things like paid subscriptions to TVs and you just sit there and you think you have to sometimes go without if you are going to have people make ends meet.”
This mother wanted to reply with her own 'individual case', but thought no MP would take her seriously, so contacted us.
We will call her Angela. She has two school-age children living with her. She explains that after many years of marriage she did not expect to find herself a single mother: "I work and my two children and I will be affected by cuts to tax credits."
Angela points out - as if to ease Ms Crouch's generalised criticisms of families - that her family do not buy take away meals and have no subscription television of any sort. She has a mobile - bought secondhand on eBay - and pays the basic contract of £9 per month. Her eldest child has a mobile with no credit.
Angela has a job at a school in a neighbouring county working the maximum number of hours a week allowed (30 hours) and her monthly pay is about £920. She has to run a car as the family is in a rural area with almost no public transport.
At the weekends and during school holidays Angela has a second job that earns a variable top-up to her income at around £9 per hour.
Three bedroom properties to rent in her area are in the region of £800 a month. "So, on that income, how", she asks quietly, "am I expected to pay for accommodation for myself and two growing boys, pay utility bills - especially in winter - pay my council tax bills, pay for essential childcare before and sometimes after school, feed my family well, and buy us all clothes?"
"And unlike MPs, I shall not get a pay rise this year."
Angela gets very cross when she reads how the government want to change the definition of 'Child Poverty' - as if that change can 'make the problem disappear': "How convenient to remove the definition of Child Poverty - so there is none! I can tell you that there is."
"Where I work", Angela would like to tell MPs like Ms Crouch, "I see children daily who show all too visible signs of poverty - from their clothes to their lack of proper food. Do you live in the same world as I do? "
"It sometimes makes me feel queasy to be part of this Britain - and this MP and these cuts make this one of those times."
She will not be watching George Osborne's performance in the House of Commons - she will be working. And she does not really want to see the evening television bulletins and their accounts of the new round of cuts: "They don't challenge government enough." But she dreads Mr Osborne's further round of cuts: "Perhaps he will cut housing benefit instead."