Hold government accountable for its policies

First published in Salisbury Letters
Last updated

I WAS disappointed to see John Glen use his View from the Commons (Journal, February 27), to respond to the chorus of criticism from church leaders about government welfare reform without actually addressing any of the issues raised.

No one objects to welfare reform or the principle of universal credit.

No one disagrees that an effective tax rate of 84 per cent for hardworking, low wage earners is criminal, and although much of the justification for the benefits cap is based on misinformation, no one disagrees that the underlying issue - channelling tax payers’ money to landlords charging unaffordable rents because of a catastrophic lack of affordable housing - is anything but unfair to ordinary people.

But Mr Glen needs to address the actual criticisms; that the implementation of benefits reform has not just involved bureaucratic failures but has included indiscriminate cuts and punitive sanctions, which along with all the other cuts to local authority spending are causing real hardship to ordinary people who have done all the right things but find themselves at a time of rising living costs and decreasing income unable to make ends meet.

He also needs to answer the grave concerns about government misuse, misrepresentation and manipulation of evidence and statistics to create untruths that stigmatise people on low incomes as well as genuine welfare recipients.

No one expected welfare reform to be easy, and we all want to ensure that abuse of the system is kept to an absolute minimum.

But if it is to be genuine reform rather than part of an ideological agenda it needs to be based on facts, evidence, reasoned judgement, and a public debate that avoids the temptation to smear and scapegoat one section of the community as “feckless scroungers”.

Benefit dependency is a serious issue which dates back to the de-industrialisation and high unemployment of the Thatcher years.

It will only be solved by those with the humility to realise that we all share responsibility for the resulting damaged communities and that punitive, vindictive and degrading treatment alone is not going to be the solution.

It is good that Mr Glen is on the cross-party group on hunger and food poverty and I hope the group is able to report back promptly and objectively.

However, it would also be useful if Mr Glen did what MPs are supposed to do and held the Government to account for the consequences of its policies as well as its use of deliberately misleading and inflammatory rhetoric.

Colin Lawson, Salisbury

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