January 8, 2013

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Every week I speak to people in Sefton Central who have a job and are working hard but still rely on their tax credits to help make ends meet until payday.

Times are tough. And sometimes we all need a bit of extra help. That is why we have a system to help people out if the worst happens. But we need to reform the system so benefits are tough, fair and reward people who work.

George Osborne and David Cameron have tried to divide the country by dishonestly claiming that their welfare policies are targeting the work-shy and benefit ‘scroungers’. 

But their attempt to play politics has backfired. The changes they are making will hit people who have a job and are working hard to make ends meet. Quite simply, they are introducing a tax on strivers.

Because the economy has flatlined, George Osborne will be borrowing £212 billion more than he planned and it’s working families in Formby and Crosby that will be paying the price of his economic failure.

Two-thirds of people hit by the Government’s cuts to tax credits and benefits are in work. And make no mistake, while they are hitting striving families, they are giving a £3 billion tax cut to the very richest people in the country.

Over Christmas I met a number of people who are losing their tax credits and who will really struggle to look after their families as a direct result of the cuts to tax credits. All the people I spoke to said they work hard and do as many hours as they can but rely on tax credits to make sure they can pay their bills especially the food and fuel bills. Without their tax credits it is going to be very hard for the families I met.

Like everyone, I want to cut the benefits bill. But the best way to do that is to get people into work, not punish people who are already doing the right thing by working but are struggling to make ends meet.

I want a system that helps people who are doing the right thing and trying to get a job or are already working but struggling to pay the bills.

I want a One Nation system which is tough but fair and which rewards people who work.

That’s why I am pleased that Labour has announced a compulsory jobs guarantee for people who are long-term unemployed.

The guarantee means that every adult who’s been out of work for two years would be offered a job. And they would have to take it or lose their benefits.

This will help up around 100 people in Sefton Central and 16,000 across the North West of England.

We would pay for this by making the reducing the tax relief on the pensions of people who earn over £150,000. When times are tough it cannot be right that we subsidise the pension contributions of the top two per cent of earners at more than double the rate of people on average incomes paying the basic rate of tax.

David Cameron cannot be the one nation Prime Minister Britain needs when his government targets people in work and people who want to work, and labels them as scroungers. A One Nation approach to welfare reform is one which is tough on the responsibility of people to work if they work, but fair to those who are in work or genuinely want to work.

This is in contrast to the Government whose approach on welfare has shown them to be more interested in exploiting the challenges the country faces rather than solving them.