George Osborne’s Savage Cuts to Some of the UK’s Most Vulnerable People in His ‘Emergency Budget’


George Osborne (far left) in a photo taken in Oxford in 1992, of the notorious Bullingdon Club, a drinking club for the university's privileged elite.What a horrible, despicable bunch of vicious bullies the Tories are, obsessed with making the poor poorer and the rich richer, while cynically dressing up their abuse in the language of fairness and aspiration.

In the Tories’ first budget since the electorate bizarrely freed them from the restraints of coalition with the Liberal Democrats, the Chancellor, George Osborne, delivered an ’emergency budget’ that was, no doubt, supposed to make us feel that we are in a state of emergency, still in need of savage cuts for the health of the economy, even though the false and damaging rationale for austerity has been thoroughly discredited time and again by economists, who understand that it actually stifles economic health. How Osborne has got away with his cruelty and stupidity for so many years almost beggars belief, as he has not managed to save any money, despite making life miserable for millions, but our bent media urging people to turn on one another  — and a sad propensity for British people to revert to Puritan self-flagellation when prompted — seem to be to blame.

And so Osborne’s budget hit poor people hard on a number of fronts, while hiding much of the pain behind one generous gesture inherited from the Lib Dems and another that is nowhere near as good as it sounds. The former is the raising of the threshold at which tax is paid, to £11,000 a year, while the latter is the surprise announcement of what George Osborne described as a ‘National Living Wage.’

This was supposed to hide another policy tweak that is nakedly for the benefit of the rich — the raising of the threshold at which inheritance tax is paid, so that £1m houses can now be handed on to children without the state taking a penny, an increase from £650,000. Even the Daily Telegraph had trouble justifying that. “Today’s emergency Budget has brought huge inheritance tax savings for people with expensive properties,” an article explained.

It was also supposed to divert us from noticing a cut in corporation tax, and while a clampdown on non-doms was promised, the non-doms’ lawyers will no doubt ensure that their wealthy clients yet again worm their way out of paying their share of the UK’s tax burden.

At the poorer end of society, Osborne cut maintenance grants for poorer students, and, with huge repercussions, reduced the benefit cap he previously introduced from £26,000 to £23,000 in London and £20,000 elsewhere, all under the pretence — backed, I’m sad to say, by a dim and malicious electorate — that most of that money goes to the benefit claimant rather than his or her landlord. As the Guardian explained in an editorial on the eve of the budget, the benefit cap is “a disgraceful policy that’s about to get worse,” and a scheme “cooked up out of slogans, which arbitrarily punishes children for being born into big families.”

Here’s more:

It did not start out with the hunt for a solution to any policy problem, but with the hunt for a slogan for Mr Osborne’s 2010 conference speech. “Nobody on benefits should be allowed to earn more than the average wage” sounds like a winning line. The difficulty is that the comparison is dishonest, as even Iain Duncan Smith was reported as objecting at the time. Median pay might have been £26,000 a year, but this was gross pre-tax earnings for an individual, as opposed to the disposable income of a whole family, which for working and workless alike has always also depended on child benefits and help with the rent. The result of this deliberate confusion is to arbitrarily punish children born into big families paying high rents. Experts calculated that, even in unfashionable parts of London, some youngsters would end up being raised on as little as 62p a day.

Tough choices are often required, but what marks this move out as nasty is the lack of any defensible principle. If the aim is, say, saving on housing benefit, that should be capped directly; likewise targeted cuts can always be made to any other benefit. Instead, in order to swell an inflammatory headline figure about maximal sponging, all the payments to a household are lumped together before this cap is applied. The effect is to sever the connection, which has existed since the workhouse, between the number of mouths to feed and the support provided. No wonder the supreme court ruled that the cap breached the UN convention on the rights of the child.

Overall, as the Guardian explained in another editorial yesterday, the cuts in George Osborne’s budget “are savage cuts, which will greatly impoverish many low-paid workers and disabled people, and most particularly poor children.” As for the supposed living wage, it is, in reality, nothing more than a moderate rise in the minimum wage — but only for those over 25. Those under 25 will continue to be treated as second-class beings.

In addition, as the Guardian explained, “this isn’t a living wage in the real sense of a pay rate carefully calculated in line with what workers need to live on. Mr. Osborne’s proposal is instead for a rebranded minimum wage, starting at £7.20 an hour next year, less than the real living wage of £9.65 in London and £7.85 elsewhere. Crucially, these numbers are calculated on the assumption that families can access the very tax credits that were being butchered while all attention was on Mr Osborne’s ‘living wage’. Before the budget, the Resolution Foundation had warned that deep cuts in tax credits would push the London living wage up to well above £11.”

The Guardian added that, for most low-paid workers, “cuts to benefits and tax credits will overwhelm the gain”, in some cases by thousands of pounds a year. The Guardian also explained, “For all the talk of rewarding hard work, the government is going to start snatching tax credits back at lower levels of earnings than presently, and will also snatch them away faster too, deepening the poverty trap.”

It was also noted, “Workers who fall sufficiently sick to satisfy an increasingly harsh bureaucracy that it simply isn’t feasible to class them as jobseekers are facing a benefit cut of around 30%, the sort of retrenchment more often associated with Greece. And where China once operated a one-child policy, Mr Osborne is now imposing a two-child rule on the poor. Tax credits will no longer be paid for third and fourth children, dismissing them as a luxury indulgence on the part of the parents, as opposed to young human beings with their own material needs and their own rights.”

I have other, more personal complaints — about George Osborne’s plan to charge market rents to those in social housing who have managed to nudge their heads above the UK median income, and are portrayed by the Tories and by lazy journalists — yet again — as “high earners,” but these can wait for a follow-up article.

For now, it will be sufficient, I hope, to sign off by encouraging my fellow citizens, who are awake and who understand what is going on, to oppose the Tories’ plans with every fibre of their being. Labour — with the exception of Jeremy Corbyn — seems to have no idea how to establish a coherent opposition to the Tories’ obsession with implementing endless austerity, a version of what the Troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund has subjected Greece to, resulting in a strangled economy that can barely function, let alone pay off monstrous, unpayable debts. Here the mantra that the deficit must be reduced at all costs indicates an inflexible malaise at the heart of British politics, but also an ideological obsession on the part of the Tories with privatisation and low taxes for the rich that blinds them to the Greek-style reality that a mass of people strangled so violently that they have no money left over after working all week cannot support a fully functioning economy.

Note: For further analysis of the Bullingdon Club photo, see the following articles in the Daily Mail and the Guardian. Also see this Daily Mail article for a Bullingdon Club photo of an unbearably smug David Cameron in 1987, and an analysis of it here.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album, ‘Love and War,’ was released in July 2015). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign, the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

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28 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my analysis of George Osborne’s budget yesterday, which continues the Tories’ savage assault on the more vulnerable members of society and enriches the already rich while pretending to support hard-working people. Cuts to tax credits and a reduction in the benefit cap will impoverish the poorer members of society still further, while lifting the threshold at which inheritance tax is paid – to £1m! – is a great and unjustifiable freebie for the rich.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    How else to get Corporation Tax down to historic lows of 18% by 2020. The rich need incentives, the poor a good kicking… same old

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, disgusting behaviour, David – although mostly expected, of course. I hope the anger people feel will continue to grow. Certainly, there’s little enough indignation in the media to match what so many people will be suffering on the ground.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Kenneth Sinnock wrote:

    Keep kicking and one day we fight back

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Kenneth. Yes, we mustn’t accept any of this. We need to keep agitating, demonstrating, reminding each other we’re not alone.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Just looking at some further analysis. Shocking info from Paul Johnson of the Institute of Fiscal Studies: “People currently on tax credits will be ‘significantly worse off’ and the reform [will] cost 3 million families an average of £5,000 per year each.” Losing £100 a week is a big deal for families that aren’t rich:

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    And further analysis of the IFS’s response to the budget here:

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    With George Osborne’s wretched budget on my mind, here’s ‘Tory Bullshit Blues’, the song I wrote and recorded with my band The Four Fathers​, which we made available on Soundcloud before the General Election (it’s also on our brand-new debut album, ‘Love and War’):

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Michael Harris wrote:

    ENGLAND so. Lucky you can see the next two prime ministers all ready there’s Boris, and There’s George. So for next twenty years David will be cloned

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    I do hope not, Michael, but it looks pretty bleak right now, that’s for sure. Someone needs to wake up all the non-voters (12 million or so) with something worthwhile. A new take on proper socialism would be worth a go, I think!

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    Andy, I am very sad about all this 🙁
    I feel like the majority of British people are blinded by a malaise of mass manipulation. By the time people suffer deeply enough, to wake up, it will be too late. As it is — the future that has been sealed by the ‘laissez-faire’ attitude people have had towards their political heads is developing into a darkness that is frightening.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    Of course, one does not *have* to buy this book off Amazon, which is a company that abuses tax havens. But you can if you want, it is a capitalist world after all, and it is hard to avoid the world (and how it operates) when *that* is where you exist!

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, people have been manipulated for five years, Tashi, by horrendously cynical politicians and newspapermen – and the despicable people who make those terrible programmes about people on benefits. The snide whispering about immigrants and welfare cheats and disabled people not really being disabled existed before the Tories got in in 2010, but until the crash of 2008 we were all supposed to be happy about how much our houses were worth – except those of us who were renting, who were generally regarded as a bit sub-human. After the crash – remember how it was called the credit crunch, and everyone’s credit cards got torn up – the country became meaner, and the Tories and their media cronies have exploited this mercilessly for the last five years with the result that we see today: mean-spirited, bigoted, poisonous people blaming immigrants and the unemployed for everything, and apparently unable to see how much they are being played by the rich, the super-rich and their pimps in the Tory government. It is, genuinely, a very depressing scenario.

  14. damo says...

    If this was any country not in the west …these….fuckers would have been rounded up shot and dumped in a ditch oh no but not in this …sceptic…isle ,they treat the poor, disabled, immagrants as subhuman …..vile…….ill tell you were this is going sooner or later when people do wake up well smash there heads in, in every way they deserve it anyone who’s an upperclasses torie ….beat them, abuse them….its what they do chase them down onto the beaches and drown them in the sea …,lol,I know I sound extream Andy but since the torie eclection victory…so called……I’ve noticed the behaveiour of the posh and the rich has started to become more arrogant and aggressive they mistakenly think they are in charge and can do as they please…..big mistake…..becouse when the whip does come down …thease fuckers will be screaming and pleading for there lives…….how can a child survive on as little as 62p a day this isn’t 1970 .

  15. damo says...

    I don’t wanna hate Andy, its not good for you or anyone just look at the mess this world is in right now …but thease pathetic weak little torie public school boys and there cowardly cronies ..make you wanna hate, look at them…..look at them……pathetic, just like there fathers and grandfathers, cowardly, weak, gutless, dim, shrivel cocked, empty balled,…excuses for males… I just look at this picture of them and I just wanna beat them up, its wot there doing to the most vulnerable in this country. Just like there fathers ….fucking cowards

  16. damo says...

    Sorry to go on Andy and ill wrap it up now the Tories, this generation of Tories is and has done more harm to this country than Thatcher, they have and are turning this country into a nasty, spitefull, cruel, greedy shithole that unless you are rich, isn’t worth liveing in. I got to my jobcenter….haha…wot jobs..and there are people clearly unable to work…people who look like there out of a Dickens novel,…..emaciated, dressed in litteraly rags, filthy broken extreamly vulnerable completely unwell, disabled people …..who are phyically dissabled …yet all found fit for work and sanctioned at the stroke of a pen… this the society we want. The men and women of this country who sacrificed, fought died and suffered through the first and second world wars would be turning in there graves and horrified at the dad country,….when, when are we gonna wake up

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your thoughts and your anger, Damo. I completely understand. I will always blame Thatcher for her hatred of working people, her destruction of industry, her deregulation of greed and her encouragement to the British people to be greedy and to think only of themselves, but you’re right to be even more alarmed at where we are now. Not only are the Tories unfettered in their arrogance (blaming anyone who complains about anything as “sore losers”), but the heartlessness in society is more marked than ever before.
    Far too many people who are doing well financially have encouraged themselves, or allowed themselves to be corrupted by the notion that they have striven harder for what they have than others, and that they number amongst the winners, while poorer people are losers, as though we live on a level economic playing field, and as though being human in any meaningful sense doesn’t have to involve a redistributive urge, to make life as tolerable as possible for the majority, not just the privileged pampering themselves 24/7 and believing they’re the best thing ever.
    We need to prioritise our shared humanity over individual greed and self-satisfaction, but I don’t know how we can get to that place.

  18. damo says...

    Lol sorry about my rant Andy,lol I just had to get it out….better out than in as they say….I just feel as many people do in this country, vulnerable – not within myself I’m a hardened old walnut remember but like many many people that our backs are against the wall and there’s no more room to manover one false move and we could be destitute, street homeless, and I can’t think of anything more terrifieing …….this is the reality of the torie cuts and ian drunken shits welfare reforms this is the cold hard blunt reality…..destitution for many I can’t understand the torie mindset is it some kind of game or sport to them?????? To harm the poorest and most vulnerable .They have no concept of haveing no saftey net of haveing nothing if they want a cruel futureless mad max world than so be it ….but they can’t beg and plead when the monsters come for them…..and they surely will. Dxx

  19. damo says...

    Just a quick one Andy I was watching David Cameron on the news,lol,lol,lol,how is David Cameron in anyway a….leader……how ???? He’s a wimp,a pussy,how is and how could he be a leader of anything or anyone…….?????

  20. damo says...

    It’s as riddiculass as prince harry ….being a soldier,lol,lol

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Damo. No offence taken about your rant. I am generally in a rage about the cruelty of these scumbags. I think it may be a game to them in one particular way. I was told last year, or I read somewhere, that basically the key to Cameron and Osborne and all the Etonians is that they want to win at all costs. They don’t care of what they’re doing is right or wrong, they just want to win. Psychopathic, then, essentially. But they’re also greedy and not very bright, hence their single-minded obsession with privatisation. Anyone objective would see that Thatcher was wrong, but not these think kids – no, their answer to any complicated problem with the social glue that holds civil society together is to destroy anything in public ownership because of their greed and ideology. It’s kind of pathetic, really.
    And no, Cameron’s not a leader, is he? Just a weathervane, always trying to say what people want to hear. And although he tries to come across as laidback “Dave”, I find a huge anger barely suppressed in that pinched little mouth he has almost all the time.

  22. damo says...

    Bingo…..they are not very bright, and yes your right they are obsessed with winning at all costs, you only have to watch clips of the….foul…Boris I’m the winner, I’m the winner, psycopaths and sociopaths they are not inteligent enogh to run a bath let alone something as complex as a country, at least …the monster…..blaire was low cunning devious. Thease are just despite an education costing tens of thousands of pounds thick as pigshit like most posh boys. David camoron is a bully him and the rest of the…limp…poshboys. I bet as a prefect at Eton he bullyed the 6 year olds lol yes he has a mean thin lipped miserly little mouth….poor samantha looking up and seeing ….that….bearing down on top of one…realy,lol,lol

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    “Not intelligent enough to run a bath let alone something as complex as a country.” I like that, Damo. Should be on a T-shirt with a photo of the mob of inept butchers!

  24. damo says...

    Lol it true they are as thick as pigshit totaly inept and inadaquate……there not men……I see that the dwp are now bringing in the lifestyle …..qwack …..David Rahman who claimed a 95% success rate on …….cureing most mental health problems includeing victims of rape, childhood trauma ect ect……if only we thought differantly about ourselves ……you couldn’t make this up how Much is this qwack costing ????? In a time of 12 billion cutbacks and emergency budgets……my friends in other countrys laugh at us, they see the UK with a mixture of laughfter and horror, pity and contempt…….. They think the British are …..loco

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Hard to argue with your friends in other countries, Damo.
    As for treating unemployment as a mental illness, that’s beyond depraved, and we need to be campaigning against it as vigorously as possible. The Tories and the media have been very successful in encouraging people to indulge in their dark fantasies about how the country’s overrun with benefit scroungers, obscuring the hugely important reality: that capitalism needs unemployment to keep wages down, and that the version of capitalism we have now has been madly, gaily getting rid of jobs so that there aren’t and never will be, under this system, enough jobs for everyone who needs them, and more and more jobs will become precarious and badly paid. This is such a huge truth, and yet it’s hidden in plain sight, and barely discussed. We need to bring it centre stage.

  26. damo says...

    I don’t know if you saw the news earlyer Osbourne now wants 20 billion worth of cuts also he wants the private sector to run most public services…….this is out of control……he and they are out of control, Andy the welfare state is being killed right before our very eyes while the dim, spitefull worthless electorate ..sits there like the liveing dead….not saying a damm thing…..God help us there won’t be anything left.

  27. damo says...

    The Tories are completely out of control

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    I didn’t see the news, Damo, but yes, they are out of control:
    To be honest, they need to feel threatened – by a significant number of people. It’ s the only language they understand!

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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