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COLUMNIST.

Byline: DAVE ANDERSON

THE extended debate about who leads Labour has clearly taken the heat off of the Conservatives but the harsh reality of their measures will become increasingly apparent as they are introduced. The Tories have a slim majority and certainly don't deserve a free pass.

The irony is that the Conservatives are conducting their own leadership battle for when David Cameron steps down, maybe as early as next year following a referendum on our membership of the European Union.

The Chancellor, George Osborne, seems to be streets ahead of current rivals by using his office as effective Deputy Prime Minister to showcase his claim to the crown and also seeking to make a land grab for Labour territory.

The budget was a great opportunity for this scheme. Osborne's increase in what he called the Living Wage was a real wheeze, a rabbit being pulled out of the hat, but it is nothing but a subterfuge.

You had best count your fingers after shaking hands with Osborne, who has not spelt out how public sector bodies can pay for it.

Councils have already said that they face a PS1 billion funding gap in paying their in-house workforce and at least a PS500 million funding gap in paying the wages of workers contracted in from private sector companies providing services such as care for the elderly.

Osborne is also slashing tax credits for three million people and this means that what George gives with one hand is more than grabbed back with the other.

There is certainly a case for reducing the level of tax credits which have expanded as businesses have failed to pay their fair share in wages to working people.

But a decent government would first have made sure that business made up the slack and made a transition to lower tax credits. Instead, government ministers are throwing many people to the wolves to the tune of about PS1,000 a year - a very substantial sum of money for those earning under PS20,000 a year.

They claim that there will be behavioural changes that will lessen the blow but that is cavalier in the extreme.

Money for a transition could have come from the purely political decision to cut liability for inheritance tax.

Those who receive such windfalls are paying tax for the first time and we all should pay fair taxes to fund the public services we all use. Changes to inheritance taxes illustrate the real Tory agenda.

They confiscate money from those in need and give more to those who already have enough. It's a repeat of their actions in the last parliament when they gave millionaires a PS100,000 tax handout while cutting benefits and wages for hard pressed families.

Richer children are being backed generously but the message to the lower and younger 'orders' is very different and much harsher.

Osborne's rhetoric about the Living Wage is further undermined by the treatment of young people deprived of maintenance grants, housing benefit if they are under 25, and also receive a lower minimum wage. A lower minimum wage for young workers applied from its onset but that gap will widen and undermine government claims to be a one nation party.

As a former leader of the biggest public sector trade union, I was closely involved in establishing the national minimum wage but government and businesses need a nudge from organised labour.

Unions are one of the best means of protecting and advancing workers' wages but, despite hollow rhetoric about being a party for workers, the Tories just cannot stop themselves being vindictive about unions. he proposal, for instance, to ban deducting union subs from wages, as with bike loans or social clubs, is the latest example of pettiness.

My hope is that a rejuvenated Labour Party will focus anger against the government's twonation plans and develop policies that more fairly and efficiently increase and share prosperity.

Dave Anderson is the Labour |MP for Blaydon.

Osborne's increase in what he called the LivingWage was a real wheeze, a rabbit being pulled out of the hat, but it is nothing but a subterfuge
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 11, 2015
Words:688
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