Chancellor George Osborne’s positive attitude towards family reforms in his fourth Budget, has not convinced Greater Manchester MPs and related charities.
They remain critical towards family policies, regardless of the proposed 20% tax relief on childcare vouchers – up to £6000 per child – from 2015.
Stretford and Urmston MP Kate Green said the budget does next to nothing for ordinary families in Greater Manchester.
“They’ve already lost £7bn in cuts to family benefits and tax credits in this parliament,” she said.
“This is ten times more than the Chancellor said he’d pay them in childcare tax breaks, which is still another three years away.
“Thousands whose wages are too low even to pay tax don’t benefit from tax cuts at all.”
She added an extra £200 cut off the tax bill offers little comfort to families, many of whom face rising living costs.
Mr Osborne said the Budget is designed to fulfil the hopes of the nation, but Family Action chief executive David Holmes failed to agree with his viewpoint.
“It is far from being a Budget of Aspiration,” he said. “This is the Struggle Budget for the vulnerable and jobless families we support.
“Parents in these families will not benefit from the changes to the Personal Tax Allowance and will be left battling to heat their homes and put meals on the table as racing food and energy prices outstrip the benefit uprating.
“On top of this, families are faced with cuts to Council Tax Benefit, as well cuts to local families and children’s services that are not protected by the schools and health ring fencing.”
Family Action provides services to disadvantaged and socially isolated families in the form of practical, emotional and financial support.
Single-parent campaigners Gingerbread offer similar assistance and chief executive Fiona Weir welcomed government investment in childcare, but fears a continuation of families’ financial pain.
“The year 2015 feels like a very long time to wait for low-income single parent families, who may not have a car, a five per cent house deposit or a fondness for beer, but who are struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table today,” she said.
“Despite very little being said on welfare in today’s Budget, within two weeks the devastating welfare cuts announced by the Chancellor in December will begin to bite.
“These are cuts that will push more children into poverty.
“Added to these cuts, the Chancellor’s oblique reference today to capping areas of welfare spending is deeply concerning.”
Manchester Central Labour MP Lucy Powell echoed Ms Weir in saying the forthcoming welfare cuts will considerably damage low-income family living standards.
“This Budget does nothing for families in Manchester struggling to make ends meet,” she said.
“As millionaires get a tax cut this April ordinary families are being battered by food and fuel inflation and the slashing of support for families in and out of work.”
The tax bill of millionaires is set to be slashed by £100,000, while Manchester Central has the highest rate of child poverty in the country.
Children’s charity Barnardo’s are calling for government intervention towards creating affordable childcare, so parents are able to work more easily and manage debt.
“This budget has done nothing for the UK’s most vulnerable families,” said chief executive Anne Marie Carrie.
“With a further 200,000 children already set to fall into poverty due to recent welfare changes, Barnardo’s is concerned that the burden of spending cuts may yet again be borne by Britain’s poorest.
“Whilst extra funding for childcare is a step in the right direction, the Government’s voucher scheme will do nothing to help the parents working part-time for minimum wage, whose high childcare costs leave them unable to ‘strive’ their way out of poverty.”
Netmums co-founder Sally Russell said the measures, which are to soften the blow of spiralling costs, are coming too late.
“This was billed as a Budget for the ‘Aspiration Nation’ – but for many families it still leaves them as the ‘Desperation Nation’,” she said.
“By that time inflation will have eroded much of the value of the help.
“Struggling families need urgent assistance now – in 18 months many more will have sunk into poverty and frightening levels of debt.
“We urge the Chancellor to bring in help earlier. Families are the bedrock of British society and any assistance given now will pay dividends long into the future.”
Image courtesy of Labour, via Flickr, with thanks.