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There is great debate at the moment about the increasing tax allowance verses the cuts in benefits.  The outcome reportedly being that the net difference to the poorest in our society is that they’re worse off.  This whilst we’re reducing taxes for millionaires. 

If we just look at the people who are working and need benefits to top up their income – I don’t know enough about the subject of people “living off benefits” to comment – it seems to me that one very important point has so often been missed.  It is that of the minimum wage.  It goes up every October and last year went up by 11p from £6.08 to £6.19 per hour.  That’s an increase of 1.8%.  Let’s do the maths:  if you work 35 hours a week on £6.19 an hour, even with the new tax allowance of 944L, your take home pay will be about £202 (£217 gross) a week, £875 a month.  You would be lucky to pay less than £450 a month for your accommodation, another £70 for council tax (this is assuming that you are sharing your home), £100 for water, gas, electricity and TV Licence.  You might have to spend £100 on travel.  So that leaves about £150 a month for food, phone, clothes, entertainment and any other expenses.  What if you’ve got children?  Okay, so you’ll get another £20 or so a week in child benefit, but you might have to pay for childcare and would certainly find it hard to do 35 hours if you were a single parent.

I know women in jobs that are part-time, term-time only, jobs which pay the minimum wage.  It is then prorated for the school holidays, so they end up earning about £15 a day.  You would be horrified if I told you what they did for a living and how much income they produce for their employers.  But their employers know that there are plenty of other women who would be “happy” to have their job, so they daren’t speak out.

I’m not suggesting that you should be able to live a Champagne lifestyle if you stack shelves, but you should be able to home, feed and clothe your family without having to claim benefits on top.

The living wage is supported by all political parties, so why haven’t they increased the minimum wage instead of, or as well as, increasing the tax allowance?  They could increase the Employers NI allowance if the cost to employers is the concern.  If it’s because we need to “be competitive in a global market” well, surely the drop in the value of the pound has done that already.

It seems we are driving the poor into the clutches of the unscrupulous pay-day loan lenders and I’m worried where it will all end.

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