"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Child Benefit

I am just going to add my rant to the child benefit 'debate'. It has taken a while for me to calm down enough after hearing the announcement yesterday at the Conservative Party conference of the changes that are proposed - trying to reply to someone earlier on this subject I had to re-type nearly every word due to typos caused by temper!

Just over two hours ago at 10.46am the BBC newspage published an article that had David Cameron reiterating that yesterday's announcement stands. To read this click on the Blog title above. Just a snippet:

On Monday Chancellor George Osborne said that from 2013 the benefit would be removed from families with at least one parent earning more than about £44,000 a year.

As I am sure that the whole cabinet are avid readers of my blog can I ask them collectively to consider the following points:

1. Yes, £44,000 is a good wage to earn - no doubt about that. But it is 'worth' more in different parts of the country and at different stages of life. This 'rule' does not take into account - for instance - house prices. In an area where house prices are extremely high first time buyers and those who are only a few years into a mortgage have very high mortgage repayments which makes the actual spending power of that £44,000 wage not so large as in other places where housing costs are much lower.

2. Many have already commented on the obvious diochotomy of housholds where there might only be one wage earner who earns over £44,000 as opposed to those housholds where there are two wage earners who both earn £43,000 but would not - as far as we know so far - lose the child benefit.

3. Child Benefit was always seen as empowerment for non-wage earning women because however short her partner kept her moneywise, as long as she was the recepient of Child Benefit there was an amount of money that was within her own control. Additionally - and this has been very important for a lot of women over the past few years - if a woman was non-wage earning but receiving Child Benefit it gave her a status toward her State Retirement Pension of 'Home Responsibilities Protection'. This means that every year Child Benefit was received it qualified one towards a State Pension, up to a limit of 22 years. If Child Benefit is not received there must be some mechanism put in place so that mothers who stay at home are not penalised in the pension stakes.

4. A wage earner on £44,000 is obviously a higher earner than one who earns - say - £25,000. S/he therefore pays more tax and on reaching £44,000 pays tax at a higher percentage, 40%. Rather than take away Child Benefit surely a 'sliding scale' of tax adjustment could be introduced so that someone earning £44,000 retains some of the Child Benefit but someone earning - say - £80,000 loses the lot? Would this be 'fairer'? Plus there is also the amount of Child Benefit each individual receives to be taken into account: i.e. this is dependant on how many children there are in each family. Should an individual on £44,000 lose all benefit for all children? Or again should a sliding scale operate, where so much is lost at different levels of pay?

Listening to the news at 2pm there has been an announcement from the Conservative Party Conference that there is a proposal about a 'tax break' for married couples. Again this raises all sorts of questions - not least that the Inland Revenue is allegedly one of the departments that is to undergo 'cuts' so this extra work is to be done by whom? And tax breaks for married couples - what about co-habiting couples with children? Are we going back to the old fashioned married man's allowance? And will there be a 'merger' of a couple's income - what about the separation of a couple's tax affairs for confidentiality reasons? Too many more questions? Have the Coalition Government really thought properly about all of this?


  1. I am not opposed to the idea of responsible parenting. However, the Tories get it wrong on so many levels; perhaps the most irritating is their insistence that there is only one commendable version of the family unit.

    Parents need support, not condemnation. Whilst the idea of benefits being distributed on the basis of need may have its roots in Marx, in typical fashion Cameron's party have only responded to one part of the problem – never do they suggest a more redistributive taxation system.

    Is it only me who sees the irony in stealing from middle class families whilst being happy to give to millionaires (via increase in the threshold for death benefit).

    If money is so tight why not chase Lord Ashcroft for his unpaid and avoided taxes?

  2. Hi Julian! Whilst you have been commenting on this blog I have been commenting on your excellent 'Parenthood is philanthrophy, not a crime' - http://wp.me/poFU4-IH blog!

    Yes responsible parenting is the ideal - but irresponsible parenting crosses class barriers....

    Your comment about tax avoidance is something which touches me on a nerve. The Tories are always so manic about making sure that the poor do not get away with 5p more than they may possibly be entitled to yet they never do anything about people like Lord A or Philip Green [who the government have appointed as an 'advisor'] who quite legally avoid tax amounting to many thousands of pounds. A further comment on this is that if the poorer section of society do get any extra money it is generally spent in our shops, benefitting our economy. People like Lord A and Phillip G who are domiciled abroad generally spend any extra money abroad, benefitting an economy other than ours.

  3. Thousands of pounds? It is estimated that Lord Ashcroft has got away with well over one hundred million pounds of avoided UK taxes.

  4. Yes indeed Julian - I was averaging not being specific to one case. Although I did think maybe I should have put 'hundreds of thousands of pounds' but didn't want to be accused of being hysterical! But the point I think we are both making is that unfortunately this sort of thing is quite legal. Other Half and I were talking yesterday about how - many years ago - the butchers chain Dewhurst got away with paying something like £1 tax in a year, quite legally. This was in the time of 'Super Tax' when PAYE was going up to about a 90% rate. Any accountant will tell us that an earner can LEGALLY keep more of his/her earnings if self-employed than someone working, earning the same amount and paying PAYE. There is a built in inequity in the tax system that allows these sort of dichotomies, surely? But no ConDem spokesperson seems half so intent on closing these loopholes as they do on 'punishing' the poorer sections of society - and as you have said it will be those with no vote or power who will suffer - in this case the children.