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Tuesday 8th January 2013 | 12:32
PCS press release
Ministers' attempts to turn neighbour against neighbour in a bid to drive through the 1% benefits cap are a "stain on our society", the Public and Commercial Services union says.
The union, which represents 80,000 Department for Work and Pensions staff, opposes all cuts to benefits and tax credits and utterly condemns the language used by politicians and sections of the media to describe people who rely on welfare support.
Nothing in the benefits uprating bill being debated by MPs today will help more people find work and increase low wages - despite these being the best ways to reduce welfare spending.
The union says we should be proud of our welfare state and the support it provides and be looking at how to improve it - including restoring the link between benefits and average wages, broken by the Tories in the 1980s, as well as paying people who are in work a living wage.
Labour should drop its "critical friend" approach to the Tories' welfare policy, the union adds, and shadow ministers should speak up for people who are out of work as well as those receiving in-work benefits.
The comparison between benefits and wages is unfair and misleading. The main unemployment benefit has dramatically fallen in value from just under 21% of average wages in 1979 to 11% now. At 21%, jobseekers allowance would be £135 a week today, instead of just £71.
Capping unemployment benefit at 1% would mean a 71p a week increase, whereas a 1% rise in the average UK wage equates to an extra £5.01 a week.
Meanwhile the cost of living is soaring. The average household weekly food bill increased by 7.3% last year, according to consumer group Which?, and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs economists estimate the average cost of a weekly shop will go up by 4% a year until 2022 at least.
Gas and electricity prices have recently risen by up to 9% and rail fares have increased this month by 4%.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:
"No one really believes this bill is a serious attempt to help our economy; it is simply another shameful attempt to punish people on low incomes for a crisis caused by the recklessness and greed of wealthy bankers.
"The Tory-led campaign to demonise people who are out of work, in an attempt to turn neighbour against neighbour, is a stain on our society and we should be proud of our welfare state and seek to improve it."