Europe

UK’s Osborne slammed over benefits freeze plan

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British charities have slammed Chancellor George Osborne’s plan to freeze most working-age benefits, saying UK households are already struggling with rising living costs and previous cuts by the Tory-led coalition government.

A number of anti-poverty groups voiced their opposition after Osborne announced his plan to freeze state benefits for the country’s working-age population for two years if the Conservatives win next year’s general elections.

The plan includes bans on jobseekers’ allowance, income support, tax credits, housing and child benefits from April 2016.

According to reports, a joint-earning British couple with one child, both on annual earnings of 13,000 pounds, would be 354.20 pounds a year worse off under the new plans.

Among the critics was Alison Garnham, the chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, who said the benefits freeze would hit working parents struggling on low wages and already coping with the coalition government’s previously imposed benefits cuts and rising living costs.

“A couple both working full time on the minimum wage are nearly a fifth short of the money they need for basics; another freeze will make it a whole lot harder for them,” said Garnham.

In addition, Matt Downie, the director of policy and external affairs at British homeless charity, Crisis, said Osborne’s planned freeze “would be cruel and counter-productive.”

Furthermore, Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Unions Congress, argued that in-work benefits are “a lifeline for millions of families” and that “working families have already been hit by three-quarters of the total cuts” imposed by the Tory-led coalition government.

Osborne claimed that the proposed benefits freeze would save the government some 3 billion pounds (USD 4.9 billion), adding that, even though Prime Minister David Cameron’s government has already applied 100 billion pounds in cuts, another 25 billion pounds is required to eliminate the deficit.

The current UK government launched its austerity measures when it came to power in 2010 in a bid to tackle the country’s mounting debt and sluggish growth, but the policies have sparked opposition and public protests in recent years.

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