Scrap the Welfare Reform Bill


By Carmel Gates, NIPSA General Council (personal capacity)

1cutsThe battle is on to stop the Tories stealing £750million off the people of Northern Ireland. The Westminster government is threatening to cut £5million per month off the block grant to the Stormont Assembly if MLAs don’t vote through the Welfare “Reform” Bill by January 2014. Our politicians must be told they cannot give in to these threats because the consequences if they vote through the Bill will be much worse. £750 million will come out of the pockets of ordinary people.

That’s the equivalent of £650 per year off every working age adult. That’s money that won’t be spent in our local shops and cafes and on local services. Most of the money will be lost by the most disadvantaged in our society – the sick and the disabled.

But the Tory propaganda that only those on benefits will suffer is just lies. £135 million will be lost to working families whose wages are so low they rely on help from the government. Working families stand to lose a staggering £810 on average per year. All this, despite the fact that the cost of food, electricity, gas etc. is going through the roof.

Northern Ireland will be the worst affected region of the UK if the Bill is implemented and Belfast will be the worst affected major city yet these expenses fiddling cabinet of millionaires, who claim taxpayer’s money to heat their stables, are telling ordinary people here that it doesn’t matter that they can’t afford to heat their homes. Exactly who are the scroungers?

The Tory justification for bringing misery to people here is that the changes will encourage people into jobs, simplify benefits, and make savings. On every count these proposals fail abysmally. You can’t give people jobs that don’t exist. There are 61,000 claiming benefit but only 4,500 jobs. Also, the new process is so complicated it doesn’t work and £140 million has been written off on a useless computer system. Instead of saving money the Tories have wasted £425 million. Even the audit office is shocked by the reckless spending.

Workers here must stand firm and stand united against these cuts to the living standards of the poor on benefits and the working poor. We must keep the pressure on our local politicians who have a duty to the ordinary people here not to vote through this shambles. Some local parties are using the excuse that people here must get the same treatment as people across the water but that is just an excuse. Who can seriously argue that equality of misery is a good thing? Our local MLAs must stand firm and refuse to be blackmailed. They must do the decent thing and stand up for those who are worst off in our society. If they don’t then we would have to ask – is it time to put a new party into the Assembly that will represent and stand up for working people?

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