Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, has today called on the Chancellor to use next week’s budget as an opportunity to lift the ‘benefits freeze’.
Thewliss, who is the SNP’s shadow spokesperson on Treasury, called it “appalling” that individuals and families who are struggling financially are being forced into poverty by the UK Government’s refusal to allow social security benefits to keep pace with inflation.
Generally, working-age benefits including Working and Child Tax Credits, and Employment Support Allowance (ESA), would increase in line with the annual rate of inflation. Instead however, the UK Government has actively chosen to restrict these benefits since 2015. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has previously estimated that the measure will push half a million families over the poverty line by 2020.
Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:
“The callousness of this Tory government never ceases to shock me. It is truly appalling that they have presided over a freeze on working-age benefits for hundreds of thousands of people across the country, while living costs have increased.
“It seems that the UK Government will pursue a budget surplus at any cost, and if that means forcing thousands of families below the poverty line, then so be it. This is purely ideological and cruel, and it must stop.
“The Tories have rightfully received harsh scrutiny on their shambolic Universal Credit policy, but the benefit freeze could potentially be even more damaging to low-income families.
“In September this year, inflation stood at 2.4%, meaning that everything is 2.4% more expensive than it was 12 months ago. The Institute of Fiscal Studies has estimated that this will translate to a £150 shortfall in household budgets over a 12 month period, leading to families being up to £800 a year worse off by 2020.
“Theresa May has the audacity to say that austerity is over. It certainly isn’t in my constituency.
“This government has form when it comes to balancing the books on the backs of low-earners, but to perpetuate a benefits freeze – particularly against the backdrop of the Brexit shambles – would be particularly malevolent. I urge the Chancellor to lift the freeze, and to give ordinary people a break”.