A minister to offer protection from government

15 May 2013

The appointment of a government minister for poverty in Wales is, ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan says, ‘a terrible indictment of what the government’s austerity measures are doing to the people of the United Kingdom’.

‘It is incredible that Britain in the 21st century needs a cabinet minister to try to combat the effects of government austerity policies,’ he says. ‘It is an acceptance that British people need to be protected from this Coalition government.’

The Welsh Assembly took the step because it believes government spending cuts will result in the type of social disruption the country saw with the closure of mines and steel plants in the 1980s.

Currently between one in three and one in four residents live below the breadline; and one in six claim unemployment benefits

But it is fear of what is to come that has promoted the Wales government to give Huw Lewis specific responsibility for seeking to tackle desperate poverty to come. The impact of the Coalition’s welfare changes will rob £590 million from low- to middle-income Welsh households in 2014/15.

The Wales government also predicts these austerity policies will mean

  • 42,000 claimants losing entitlement to disability living allowance by 2018
  • 56,000 people losing up to £89 a week because of cuts to employment and support allowances
  • £40 million a year being taken away because of the bedroom tax; and
  • hundreds of millions of pounds draining from the economy by cuts to tax credits and the 1% cap on uprating working-age benefits.

‘I applaud the Welsh government for the efforts it is making to protect its citizens,’ Mick says. ‘Equally I condemn its Westminster equivalent for making it necessary.’

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