Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop today (January 7th 2013) criticised plans revealed in a Sunday newspaper by a group of Conservative MP’s which recommended drastic cuts to benefits, such as tax credits, in poorer parts of the UK – and used Middlesbrough as an example of the areas that would be targeted.
“The so-called 20/20 group, consisting of new Tory MP’s mainly elected at the last election and a few Cabinet ministers, were tasked by Chancellor George Osborne to look at future policies for the next Tory manifesto. In their report their group leader, Hampshire East MP Damian Hinds, specifically calls for the introduction of different levels of welfare payments around the country, arguing that house prices, travel fares and some other living costs are significantly higher in London and the South East than elsewhere.
“The report says, and I quote “Benefits in Croydon might not stretch very far, but in Middlesbrough the same amount could be a favourable alternative to work”
“This utterly divisive policy is there in black and white. A Tory MP representing affluent Hampshire towns like Alton and Liphook is doing George Osborne’s dirty work for him. It is unthinkable that the poor and the North East should suffer even more poverty and indignity in the interests of following Cameron and Osborne failed policies of slash and burn.
“The reality is that Teesside does not need more enforced poverty, it needs a proper economic plan for growth, industry and jobs. No-one in their right mind would prefer already minimal benefits to a proper regular wage – as we see from the queues whenever job openings are advertised. This plan would be a kick in the teeth to many of my constituents, many of whom are in work but on low pay so tax credits are essential to make ends meet. It is also an obvious attempt to drive a wedge between the North and South of the country and goes against the idea of ‘One Nation’, which is an argument for cohesion, not regional confrontation.”