With politicians falling over themselves to tell us what they intend to do about poverty and welfare dependency in the Glasgow East scrap I thought I'd provide you with an illustration of how the government has failed to do either and provide an example of how we make life for the low paid needlessly difficult.
On Tuesday I had a lovely young chap in my office who'd got himself in a spot of financial bother after foolishly but understandably in my view running up a debt of £2000. I should point out that he hardly blew it on living the high life having spent it to pay off some other small debts totalling approximately £750, clear two months rent arrears, three months council tax arrears and er.... take his girlfriend on holiday. To be fair when he took it out he'd managed to wangle some regular overtime in work which has subsequently dried up -hence his current difficulties.
Anyway lets have a look at this very pleasant young fellow's current monthly finances.
Council Tax £95.00
Electricity (includes amount towards arrears) £80
Pay as you go mobile £15.00
Prescription costs £6.85
TV Licence £11.60
Bus Fares £58.50
Food, Household, Toiletries, Leisure and Clothing £210
Total Outgoings £766.95
Surplus £3. 47
After obtaining details of his income I realised that he was entitled to benefit that he wasn't claiming and assisted him to apply for Working Tax Credit which will take his monthly surplus income to £55.47 each month and almost cover his loan payments. In any case it represents an offer more likely to be accepted by his creditor than £3.47 each month.
Supporters of our wonderful Labour government will be leaping up and down claiming this chap as someone they've managed to lift out of poverty or some such nonsense. However let's not forget this chap is one of many hit with a tax increase after the abolition of the 10p tax rate.
Speaking of tax, am I alone in wondering why this chap is paying any tax or national insurance at all? If the government did away with tax credits, excluded low earners from income tax and paid their national insurance contributions for them (as they do with benefit claimants) my client would have an income of £913 per month.
£913 is by no means a fortune and the surplus income of £146.45 would be ploughed back into the economy and via increased taxable business profits find it's way back to the treasury at least in part. The Glasgow East constituency and areas like it need all the folk with disposable income they can get to retain and attract useful stuff like shops within walking distance. Add that to the savings made from the costly administration of tax credits and I start to wonder if I'm missing something?
I'm sure some dog breathed bore is reading this tutting and muttering that the chap concerned should stop whining and get a better job. Well firstly he isn't whining because he really enjoys his job and has a great laugh with the folk he works with, he likes the company he works for and hopes to progress within it. In any case he's doing nothing wrong, low paid jobs exist -someone has to do them, his work is perfectly legal why should he be penalised for doing it? We can't all be MPs with thumping great wages and bottomless expenses accounts now can we?
Government reforms of the benefit system are nothing more than a stick to beat people into getting off out of work benefits and the tiny carrot of tax credits to encourage the taking up of low paid work. In other words the poorest among us are being bought cheap to allow the government to fiddle statistics. The only political agenda being served by this is the governments. Whether you believe in dishing out benefits like sweeties, the total abolition of the welfare state or are somewhere in between, if you accept the government statistics as a sign of progress you are being conned.
Shipyards and manufacturing are gone. The jobs open to unqualified workers are in the low paid service industry. People who take up these jobs deserve a living wage. The case for the vultures in parliament who live fat off their drudgery is somewhat less compelling. There is no John Lewis list for the poorly paid. You don't have to be even mildly left leaning to see the inherent obscenity in representatives of areas like Glasgow East trousering enormous expenses whilst their working constituents can barely afford a night at the pub. If I were in charge each MP would be paid the average wage in their constituency to give them an insight into how their constituents live and give them an incentive to get off their fat arses and attract decent jobs to their constituency.