A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Do the Tories want to tackle child poverty?

Just been to an interesting speech by James Purnell at the Social Market Foundation.

He said he was fairly sure the Tories do not have an aspiration, let alone a target for reducing child poverty and cited the failure of Chris Grayling to respond when challenged on this on Monday at DWP questions.

The Hansard illustrates this:

"James Purnell: The Government are committed to the goal of reducing child poverty. We continue to keep the strategy under review and we will make announcements at the appropriate time. However, it is surprising that the hon. Gentleman raises the issue when I do not believe that the Conservative party is committed to even an aspiration, let alone a pledge, to reduce child poverty. Perhaps he would like to answer that point.

Chris Grayling: I look forward to our changing jobs in the near future. From the lack of an answer to my question, I judge that the Government will not achieve their target of halving child poverty by 2010. Will the Secretary of State give the House a sense of when the Government hope to achieve that target?

James Purnell: As I said, the Government are committed to the target. The House will notice that the hon. Gentleman ducked the question on whether the Conservative party is committed to the goal. Under his predecessor, it was at least an aspiration, but it is not even that now. He is not prepared to say that he shares the aspiration of getting children out of poverty in this country, which is shameful."


Anonymous Rich said...

What is child poverty and is the tax credit system the right way to tackle poverty.

Poverty has increased under Labour and social mobility has vitually stopped. Hardly a good advert for a Labour government.

Sure you can chuck taxes at poor families to help children but it doesn't help them in the long term. What will these families do when the next government removes the tax credit system?

Too complicated and creates welfare dependants.

3:27 pm, February 20, 2008

Anonymous Shackers said...

Do Labour have a target for reducing child poverty??

It has increased under this Labour government!!

4:53 pm, February 20, 2008

Anonymous John Jenkins said...

What do the Tories intend doing about child poverty? Does anyone know? Do they know?

6:29 pm, February 20, 2008

Blogger donpaskini said...

Child Poverty, using the common measurement which is the international standard (as well as pensioner poverty) have fallen under Labour. It fell dramatically between 1999 and 2005, and has kind of remained at the same sort of levels since then. More on this at www.poverty.org.uk for anyone interested.

In answer to rich, if the Tories do get rid of the tax credit system, then millions of people will lose a big chunk of their income, and some will have to quit their jobs. Far from creating 'dependency', tax credits provide opportunities for people to be better off in work than they would be not working.

'Chucking money at poor families' is an extremely effective policy - it has boosted the number of people in work, helps kids do better at school and putting more money in the pockets of people who spend it on their kids is good for our economy.

Luke - do you support the End Child Poverty Campaign's calls for an extra £4 billion to be spent to meet the 2010 target? On current trends, the government is going to miss it by some way.

6:30 pm, February 20, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

"then millions of people will lose a big chunk of their income, and some will have to quit their jobs. Far from creating 'dependency', tax credits provide opportunities for people to be better off in work than they would be not working"

So this is Labours justification for subsidising poor pay. Surely it would be better to make sure pay reflects living standards rather than get the tax payer to subsidise it. Labours rob peter to pay paul with never work in the long term.

7:07 pm, February 20, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

I'm starting to understand how Labour are managing to keep unemployment figures down while benefits costs are rising....tax credits.

Everyone who was on benefits with kids is working part time. This is not sustainable and it will have a huge impact on skills in the next 20 years.

Tax credits will be removed I'm sure under the next government. And rightly so.

7:15 pm, February 20, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

I have no0 faith in the Tories ability to do anything about any poverty issue.

However, labour have also failed to deliver to a satisfactory level.

Three reasons
1. Marginal tax rates are still far, far too high. The last budget made a major mistake here
2. Tax credit systems which rely on people claiming benefits will never work. However, tax credits themselves are a good idea - much better that people with childcare responsibilities work part time than not at all. Removing tax credits will simply mean more people not being able to work. They simply need to be made automatic
3. Poverty can only be dealt with via redistribution and that means far more gradations in taxation than currently exist. Not necessarily higher for everyone, but more bands and certainly higher for those earning over 100,000

1:04 am, February 21, 2008

Anonymous observer's friend said...

Well said, Merseymike! Shame that Luke Akehurst won't agree with you. He fully supported Brown in that last - most disgusting - Budget (that whacked childless, low-income earners with MORE TAX) whilst giving tax breaks to higher earners (such as him).

What's wrong, I want to know, with tackling poverty per se, regardless of the age of the victim?

As a child I was brought up in poverty, as an adult I experience poverty on a daily basis, and as I enter my old age I will continue to experience it, possibly more acutely. In the past, the Labour Party repeatedly promised to tackle the issue of poverty but didn't. Now it has given up on those empty promises. Now it just "makes commitments" to end child poverty (and bugger the rest of us).

Sometimes I'd like to see this Labour Government committed ... to jail for telling lies!

7:47 am, February 21, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Observer's friend, you say " In the past, the Labour Party repeatedly promised to tackle the issue of poverty but didn't."

What do you think the national minimum wage is? It's an anti-poverty measure.

Or tax credits? An anti-poverty measure for the working poor.

Or reducing unemployment from 3m to 1m?

Actually I agree with you about tackling poverty per se - and not just child poverty. But tackling child poverty is the top priority because if you change the circumstances a child goes through in the first few years of its life, you massively alter its life chances.

8:00 am, February 21, 2008

Blogger Bill said...

Luke, 1 million is the claimant count - ILO unemployment (those seeking work) is 1.5 million. Ish. The big trend of recent byears is a growing divergence betweent he two counts...

9:58 am, February 21, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

Luke but Labour have not reduced unemployment, they have just shifted unemployment to part time employment funded by tax credits. Plus there has been a huge growth in those claiming incapacity benefits.

The whole problem with government these days is this kind of spin. They spend more time cooking the figures than they do resolving the issues.

Labour are no longer the party that help the poor. Some areas such as Bridgend have not seen any economic improvement since the 1970s. Unemployment is high and now the cost renting is preventing many young people looking for work else where....Labour have trapped these people into a life on benefits. Young people have high expectations and this is driven by a constant barrage of media junk....is it any wonder why young people are killing themselves in Bridgend...they think they have no future.

Figures show that social mobility is worse now than under the last conservative government. So Labours attempt to improve the life of the poor is failing...badly. This is a true measure of poverty.

The best thing you can do for the poor is to provide them with opportunities. Remove all income Tax for those earning less than 10,000 pa and allow people to claim the cost of going to work against their annual tax bill. It is crazy that as a company director I don't have to pay any tax (although I do)while someone on 10k gets screwed. A quick call to the accountants and I can be paid in dividends and not pay a penny...how fair is that when my cleaner who earns £6.50 per hour starts paying tax at 5k.

Current attack on the motorist is a clear attack on the poor. I have three cars, a prius, a cayenne and an M4...well over 200,000 worth of motors. Do I care about paying a little extra road tax....NO. But your taxes hurt the poorest motorist. So the Labour message is the Rich can do what they want...but if you're poor then you shouldn't drive.

Create a work licence that is FREE for all British citizens but costs £1000 for immigrants. You would stop EU migration dead and force up the wages of the poorest.

Create training grants worth up £10,000. These would be directly linked to employerers and with a promise of a job afterwards. I currently spend up to £8000.00 on every person I recruit from an agency...this would be better spent on training but I would need some help from the government to do this.

10:52 am, February 21, 2008

Blogger Bill said...

Rich, btw, are you still illegally refusing to employ EU citizens? Don't suppose you'd care to name your company so I could shop you?

Anyway, "Remove all income Tax for those earning less than 10,000 pa and allow people to claim the cost of going to work against their annual tax bill." Erm, that's subsidising low wages in the same way the Familly Tax credit does.

Anyway, I agree with Adam Smith, the burden of taxation doesn't fall on waged and salaried workers, what your employees call income tax is in fact a tax coming out of your profits - an employee. no wonder you want to have their income tax cut...

11:54 am, February 21, 2008

Anonymous tim f said...

I was waiting for Rich to get on to the rights of the downtrodden motorist!

12:08 pm, February 21, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

I don't employ anyone who doesn't have British or Dual nationality. My local council is aware of the situation they have done nothing for 5 years.

12:29 pm, February 21, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

Anyway, "Remove all income Tax for those earning less than 10,000 pa and allow people to claim the cost of going to work against their annual tax bill." Erm, that's subsidising low wages in the same way the Familly Tax credit does.

NO....it's not in many ways. Easier to run and encourages full time employment and is fair for all workers. Everyone benefits.

12:33 pm, February 21, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

I think the idea of tax credits sounded good in principle, however a far better plan would be, as Rich suggested, lower the taxes for lower to mid earning workers and raise taxes on higher wage earners.

It can't be right that people who earn £60 grand a year get Tax Credits; it makes a mockery of the system, and does nothing to shorten the poverty gap.

Luke is right to say lowering child poverty is important but we must realise we can't help the poorest of children without improving the economic fortunes of the communities they live in. So please let us abandon Thatcherite policies and try and use some sensible socialist ones instead

12:58 pm, February 21, 2008

Blogger Bill said...

Rich, fair enough, hope you can afford a good barrister when someone lodges a com[plaint against your recruitment practices. Also, lets not forget, lowering taxes on incomes below �10K would also lower your tax, and benefit your business from you having to pay less employee tax...

1:56 pm, February 21, 2008

Blogger donpaskini said...

rich: "Surely it would be better to make sure pay reflects living standards rather than get the tax payer to subsidise it."

Go on then, you're the one who is an employer! You could start by giving your cleaner a pay rise from £6.50/hour to an amount that 'reflects living standards'.

Lots of people don't earn enough to be able to pay all their bills and support their families, even when working full time or in more than one job. If you don't want taxpayers to have to subsidise their wages, then employers are going to have to pay people more in wages.

6:21 pm, February 21, 2008

Blogger donpaskini said...

ravi: if you got rid of tax credits and raised the tax threshold as you seem to be suggesting, then people in low paid work would be worse off.

Tax credits work like a 'negative income tax' for the lowest earners, so people get more back than the amount they pay in tax.

Better would be to keep tax credits (which continuing to improve their administration), and make the tax system fairer by cutting taxes for people earning less than the average and putting them up for people earning more than the average.

As for a family on 60k getting Child Tax Credit, I'm relatively relaxed about that. The benefits system need to be a mixture of means-tested and universally provided support. A couple each earning the average salary in London have an income of 60k, so it's not like it is going to the mega rich, and the more people that know about the good things that tax credits provide, the less likely that the Tories will be able to get rid of them. If you compare what has happened to universal benefits as against those only available to the poor in the past few years (since, say, 1980), it's the things which benefit both middle-income and poor people which have held their value, whereas the ones which only benefit the poor have dropped in value significantly.

6:35 pm, February 21, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

Donpaskini, how much is a living wage outside London? You could base it on housing. You can buy a small house up here for about 100k...so thats a salary of 30k a year. Try and convince Tescos to pay 30k a year.

I'm more than happy to pay more as long as you lot are more than happy to pay more for the services you use.

I'd love to pay everyone a lot more, but my business profits are shared out; we are a co-operative. The better we do the more we can share.

I'm very lucky that I'm in environmental engineering the services we offer are high profit. Most of our engineers earn in the region of 35k a year plus 10k bonus. By the way 6.50 an hour for a cleaner around here is good....Tescos only pay £5.80 and how much do they make.

I think everyone deserves a decent wage but for that to happen we all have to start paying more for the things we buy.

8:12 pm, February 21, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course Grayling didn't turn the question time into "Shadow Cabinet Questions". As someone should tell Gordon, questions get put to Government ministers, not the other way round.

Don't come the holier-than-thou on this. Child poverty has gone up under Labour; all very well giving it all talk about "aspirations" but where's the beef?

6:43 pm, February 22, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Child poverty has not "gone up under Labour". There are 600,000 fewer children in poverty than there were in 1997.

8:01 pm, February 22, 2008


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