Benefit cuts look set to outweigh tax cuts and the living wage promises in Blackpool when it comes to Chancellor George Osborne’s summer budget, say local politicians.
The Chancellor surprised commentators with a pledge to create a new “National Living Wage” of £7.20 from next April, rising to £9 an hour by 2020.
But the move has been described as a ‘fraud’ by Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden who pointed out it was less than the current £7.85 recommended by the Living Wage Foundation.
He said it was just a rise in the minimum wage and would not make a big enough difference to the thousands of people on low wages employed in the resort.
He said: “It is a sleight of hand, a fraud. It is less than the current level and won’t apply at all to under 25s.
“The Chancellor is completely out of touch with families needs. The decision to cap pay rises in the public sector at one per cent until 2020 is extraordinarily divisive from a man who goes on about One Nation.
“It means in effect a pay cut for many workers in the Blackpool area for the next four years.
“A cut in inheritance tax is irrelevant to most people in Blackpool –there are not that many wishing to leave more than £1m to their children, it is just playing to the Tory party gallery.
“Cuts to benefits will do nothing to improve many people’s situation in the poorest areas, if they start falling into debt on rent etc that will mean the burden will fall on local councils to cope.
“The cut in the maintenance grant for students will also hit poorer families and will not encourage aspiration or social mobility.”
Coun John Jones, cabinet member for school improvement and children’s safeguarding at Blackpool Council, said the budget would hit young people in the resort.
He said: “Tax credits and Universal credit restrictions to two-children families will have a severe impact on people working in Blackpool where we have a lot of part-time, zero hours and casual workers.
“I am concerned about the effects that ending housing benefit for 18 to 21-year-olds which will have huge consequences.”
James Sorah, from Blackpool Against the Cuts, said: “It is an atrocious budget which hits the most vulnerable here and will cut public provision for so many people including those in work through in-work benefits.”
But Conservative MPs said the budget would help people in work and provide security.
Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard said: “This is a budget that delivers for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, and delivers security for working people – with our finances under control, the national debt falling, productivity boosted, welfare controlled, income taxes cut, and now a National Living Wage.
“I welcome the National Living Wage – a Conservative measure we should be proud of – which will make a substantial difference to many local people. I will take no lectures off a Labour Party which never introduced this when they had the chance. I also welcome the reduction in the benefits cap outside London to £20,000 which will start to level the playing field here on the Fylde Coast so that taxpayers on low incomes who fund the welfare state do not subsidise those earning far more than them”.
Fylde Mark Menzies MP said: “This was a budget which puts working people first and sets us on the path to moving from a high-welfare, high-tax, low-wage society to a lower welfare, lower-tax and higher-wage one.
“The biggest news is probably the increase of the living wage to £9 by 2020, giving an estimated 2.5 million people an average £5,000 pay rise over five years.
“Low earners will be helped even more by the personal allowance rising to £11,000 next year.”