"There will be an increased need for second-hand furniture and clothing items and a greater reliance on high interest lenders (including loan sharks) to meet specific needs…" Salford Council Report on the Impact of Welfare Reforms
Salford Council's new energy and cost saving plan to replace all existing street lights with `LED lanterns' will cast a dimly lit Victorian shadow over the city. It will provide the perfect backdrop to the ConDem Government's welfare policies which are about to hit most families in Salford really hard.
The latest Salford Council report on the `Impact of the Welfare Reform Act' concludes that the city will experience…
* Increased indebtedness
* Increased arrears of rent and Council Tax
* Increased use of high interest lenders and loan sharks
* Increased homelessness presentations and homes at risk of possession.
* Fewer people with contents insurance.
* Fewer people with savings.
* Higher levels of depression and mental health problems.
And yesterday the ConDem Government continued its assault on the poorest and most vulnerable people with a 1% cap on benefits, even though the rate of inflation is well over double that figure.
The benefits to be capped include Jobseeker's Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Maternity Allowance, Sick Pay, Adoption Pay, elements of Working Tax Credits, and the child element of the Child Tax Credit. The Department of Work and Pensions has calculated that claimants of any of these benefits would lose an average of around £12 per month. And that's before the Bedroom Tax, Universal Credits, Council Tax Benefit cuts (et al) kick in… It's all going to make Salford's poverty figures even worse.
Low Pay - currently, full time workers in Salford receive over £50 less per week than the national average. The average full time wage in Salford is £452, compared to £472 for the North West and £508 for Great Britain.
Unemployment – the latest statistics show 5.3% of of the working age population claiming out of work benefits, compared to 4.3% for the North west and 3.8% in Great Britain.
Poverty – according to Salford Council figures, 20,000 people of working age currently receive Council Tax support – that's 25% of the total working age population in the city. Also, according to official Council figures, 13,100 children in the city are living in poverty.
Is this a case of a few quid here and there, or is it a life and death scenario? The difference in life expectancy between the least and most deprived wards in Salford is 12.1 years for men and 8.2 years for women.
The ConDem Government should be lifting people out of poverty. These latest cuts are very clearly putting people into even more poverty as a deliberate policy move.
Salford City UNISON represents many low paid public sector workers, and also the social workers, welfare rights workers and care assistants who will be dealing with the effects of welfare cuts. We asked UNISON branch secretary, Steven North for his views on yesterday's benefits cap vote…
"It is absolutely clear that the majority of the people who will be affected by these cuts will be in work" he says "Furthermore, these cuts do nothing to properly support people back into work. They will not create one single job, but merely penalise those – working or otherwise – who have been hardest hit by this recession.
"As somebody who represents working people I can see why the public might sympathise with these proposals, but what about their impact – not only on those who work – but also those who have recently been made redundant?" he adds "These cuts will not only affect the unemployed, but also those who do what they are being told to do and take low-paid jobs, despite the cost of transport, childcare etc.
"These benefits are a safety net to many, but we must also be clear – and this is where we go further than Labour - that these benefits only exist because too many employers refuse to pay a living wage and because private and social landlords charge exorbitant rents that people cannot afford without support from the state" he explains "One concrete way we could bring down the welfare bill is to insist on rent caps for private landlords and start building more council housing for people. A programme of council house building would not only solve the problem of high rent charges, but would also be a way of getting people into secure employment on decent wages.
"This Government is simply making the poorest pay yet again" he concludes "and is doing so in a cynical way that makes working people think the unemployed are the problem, rather than the rich bankers who created this crisis and are now taking tax cuts…"
`The Condition of the Working Class in England' that Salford based Friedrich Engels described in Victorian 1844 is certainly coming around again…
Writing of the `bourgeoisie' he stated… "Their interest is diametrically opposed to yours, though they always will try to maintain the contrary and to make you believe in their most hearty sympathy with your fates. Their doings give them the lie…"
* Over the next few weeks, the Salford Star will be looking at the affects of Universal Credits, the Bedroom Tax, Council Tax benefit cuts and more. If you'd like your circumstances to be featured please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
* see previous Salford Star article on Council Tax Benefit cuts – click here and click here