Tax credits – what’s not to like? More money in the pockets of the low paid. Helping families where there’s not much coming in. Taking the edge off poverty pay.
But hang on – why on earth should the taxpayer have to stump up to give people employed by highly profitable companies a half-decent wage?
There was a lot of support for a living wage – not just the £6.19 an hour set out as the national minimum – when the People United tour hit the North East, stopping off in Middlesbrough for a question time session.
More and more Teeside families are finding “there’s too much month left at the end of the money” according to union support worker Linda Hughes, who popped over from Darlington to join the Question Time panel.
Speakers from the floor wanted to see the dignity of labour restored. An end to zero hours contracts would help. This no-rights casualised way of getting work harks back to the bad old days on the dockside before the Dock Labour Scheme – where men turned up hoping to be hired with no employment rights and no security. It has resonance on Teeside. The blight of casual labour through zero hours contracts should be stopped in its tracks before it becomes the new norm.
And apprenticeships should deliver proper training, skilling people up not just fobbing them off with low paid, cut price starter jobs. It is not just people on benefit who are finding themselves at the sharp end.
There was much anger over pay day loans, as there has been wherever the People United bus gas pulled up. Linda Hughes is also a councillor who sits on the board of Darlington Credit union – and is keen to steer vulnerable local people away from the allure of quick pay day cash at eye-watering rates of interest.
Now the Archbishop of Canterbury has said he wants to see the Church of England use some of its vast assets to help credit unions spread – a humane and non-exploitative alternative to pay day lending, .
Pay Day Loan companies may be branded as legalised loan sharks by people outraged at their sky high interest rates. But let’s not forget the scourge of the illegal loan sharks, menacing those who default, lurking in stairwells and car parks, well below the radar. And way beyond the scope of an Office of Fair Trading probe – however weedy that may turn out to be.