My favourite little factoid about the House of Commons has to do with Budget Day, and it’s this:
“Members may not eat or drink in the chamber; the exception to this rule is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who may have an alcoholic beverage while delivering the Budget statement” (Wikipedia)
Today, it may be the rest of us that need the alcohol.
In 2008, the British government approved a rescue package to British banks. The banks had lowered their credit standards, given out more money and brought in profit for their shareholders. Then the housing bubble went pop. The greed of bankers and shareholders who wanted to lend out more money to bring in more profit, meant that the returns weren’t coming back in. And the banks were running out of money.
£500,000,000,000 is what it look like when you write it out. It’s a whole load of zeros. Let’s look at another number that has a lot of zeros.
£16,000,000,000. That’s sixteen billion. Which is the amount the banks paid out in bonuses the year they received the bailout.
How about another number.
£50,000,000,000. Fifty billion. That’s how much the government gave to the banks in 2009, for the second bailout.
£93,000,000,000. Ninety-three billion. The amount handed to businesses in subsidies and tax breaks.
£12,000,000,000. Twelve billion. The amount Osborne is expected to cut from the welfare bill before 2017. The money that goes to the poorest people in society.
Because when you’ve given £516 billion to the banks to fix their mistake, and £93 billion to businesses to make sure they’re alright, someone has to foot the bill. And the people footing the bill are the people who never had any money in the first place.
More numbers? Alright then.
£20,000. Twenty thousand. The amount of money a family outside London is expected to live on. (Here’s a previous blog post about how that pans out)
3,500,000. Three and a half million. The number of children in the UK living in poverty.
1,084,604. One million, eighty four thousand, six hundred and four. The number of people who had to receive emergency food and support from the Trussell Trust food banks in 2014-15.
15,955. Fifteen thousand, nine hundred and ninety five. The number of benefits sanctions in the FIRST THREE MONTHS of 2014.
One final one? Gladly:
We’re two months in to a Tory government, and the gloves are coming off. There’s a budget in less than a week and I can’t decide if the news stories that have appeared over the last couple of days are to gently ease us in to the horror, or if they’re cleverly designed to turn the country on those in poverty so when the budget comes they can say “Yeah, those workless, they’re the cause of all this country’s problems!”.
I plan to write a more detailed post for budget day. But this part couldn’t wait.
Let’s look at some of the news stories from the past few days:
- The Independent Living Fund (ILF) has been scrapped, leaving many disabled people reliant on local councils that have no funds to provide care for them.
- Jeremy Hunt has announced that prescriptions will now have the actual cost written on them along with “Funded by the UK taxpayer” in what seems to be an attempt to shame chronically ill people into no longer being ill.
- A leaked DWP memo seems to suggest that the government want to scrap the Work Related Activity (WRA) group of the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Let’s have a quote from that article, presented without further comment:
Charlie Pickles from Reform, a think tank focusing on public service delivery that was co-founded by Conservative MP Nick Herbert, said the current system encourages people to stay on the benefit rather than finding work.
- The government seeks to re-write the criteria for child poverty, concentrating on the amount of worklessness and educational attainment in the household rather than material poverty – which fails to take into account that a lot of people are in work and still in poverty.
This has been happening for years. The government has been scapegoating people in poverty and saying “it’s your fault the country has no money”. But the stories are coming thick and fast, the cuts are becoming more brutal and next week’s budget is going to hurt. A lot.
If you’re poor, the Tories don’t like you. If you’re disabled, if you claim benefits, if you are unemployed, the Tories don’t like you. If you’re a single parent, if you live in social housing, the Tories don’t like you. If you have mental health problems, if you’re a public sector worker, if you’re a union member, the Tories don’t like you.
The country is run by people who not only don’t understand what it’s like to live on the breadline, to live in poverty or to live with disability, they cannot fathom it. It is so, completely far removed from their life experience that they cannot even begin to understand, to visualize, to conceptualize what it is like. The country is run by people who genuinely believe that all it takes to “work hard and get on” is to get a job. They genuinely believe that. All those excuses – disability, lack of employment, mental health issues, family and childcare issues – are all just excuses to them. As far as they’re concerned, you are just being lazy. A scrounger. A pleb.
Two big topics of the budget were getting on the property ladder and starting small businesses. For so many people, both those ideas are so far away from what they’re able to do. People can’t just start up their own business. People can’t just pop off and buy a house. And the government completely ignores and glosses over those who are really struggling to live day-to-day. Today’s budget was confirmation that the Tories are not thinking about the poorest, the hardest hit, those who are truly struggling. They genuinely believe you are scroungers who are lazy. They’re believing their own rhetoric.
I have decided that I’m no longer going to kid myself that the government gives half a crap about anyone that doesn’t directly affect them. They don’t have to see the poor, the disabled, unless they get wheeled out for a visit to a local estate or a day centre. They do not see the say to day and they have no interest in seeing it.
I trust this government as far as I can throw them.