Owen’s Pontypridd Observer column 30/03/2016

Never again can the Tories tell us we’re all in it together. When even Iain Duncan Smith – the architect of the cruel Bedroom Tax – says George Osborne is going too far – there can be no doubt that Tory cuts are landing most heavily on those least able to withstand them.

That was the case again in George Osborne’s Budget of a fortnight ago. A deeply unfair Budget that looked to cut support for hundreds of thousands of disabled people to fund tax cuts for the most well off, and a Budget that ultimately led to Duncan Smith heading for the door.

The Budget epitomised the Tories’ failure on fairness, and exposed their true priorities. Slashing support for disabled people by thousands of pounds a year to cut taxes for the wealthiest and big businesses, an unacceptable idea that barely lasted a day.

It also confirmed the Government has failed to tackle the major problems facing the British economy. Higher debt, higher borrowing, and Osborne’s failure to hit his own targets led to the forecasts for growth, productivity and wages all being revised down.

It was a Budget so bad that it was at risk of being voted down by the Tories’ own MPs. The only option the Tories had after public outcry at their perverse priorities was to announce a full reversal of the cuts, and that’s what Duncan Smith’s successor, Stephen Crabb, was asked to do.

His immediate U-turn on cuts to disabled people was welcome and I’m proud to have helped lead Labour campaigned to secure that victory. Hundreds of disabled people in Pontypridd who would have been hit have been spared these further, cruel cuts to the vital support they rely on.

But the early signs from the new Tory Secretary of State are not good. He’s spending £100,000 of taxpayers’ money taking his own constituents to court to defend the hated Bedroom Tax, which affects 700 people locally and half a million people across the country.

And he’s refusing to rule out further cuts to disabled people on top of the £1.2bn the Government will have cut over this Parliament, simply saying there are no plans for the time being.

That isn’t good enough. The Budget and its chaotic aftermath demonstrate the failure of the Tories to address the weaknesses of the UK economy and the needs of working people, all the while prioritising the richest few.

The Tories urgently need to change tack on social security. They need to reverse their cuts to tax credits and Universal Credit, which will hit working families in Pontypridd hard, they need to scrap the Bedroom Tax and put right their unfair speeding up of the state pension age.

Otherwise, Iain Duncan Smith’s suggestion that the Tories are attacking the poor and dividing the nation will continue to ring all too true for too many people.