Be honest, tax credit cut will be painful, Suffolk MP claims

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge - Credit: Gregg Brown

Moving Britain away from a “dependency culture” cannot be done without some pain, a Suffolk MP has claimed amid clamours for the Government to look again at its plans to cut tax credits.

James Cartlidge, who was elected as MP for South Suffolk in May, said the Government should be honest that people would be worse off as a result of the change.

In a blog for the Conservative grassroots website Conservative Home, Mr Cartlidge said: “Trying to move Britain from a dependency culture is horrifically difficult, and I cannot see how it can be done without some pain. But the Government must be honest and not give the impression that no one will lose out (even though no Minister has actually said that).

“One new intake colleague has confided to me that they support a compromise but would prefer it if we could at least be honest that some will be worse off. I have found in correspondence with constituents that when I am candid about my position they are actually more accepting, even if – naturally – they still want us to relent.”

Mr Cartlidge claimed the greatest cost and traction of tax credits was paying close to full time pay for those working part time hours.

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“Perhaps if we called tax credits ‘in work income support,’ some would be more willing to question whether creating a £30bn a year system of dependency at a time of general prosperity, for up to nine out of ten families, was a sensible idea.”

“Certainly, there is a need for greater honesty all round if we are to reform tax credits in our long-term interest rather than descend into a slanging match,” he said.

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The MP, who has spoken about the need for tax credit reform in the House of Commons since being elected an MP, said that his opposition to tax credits was based on the experience of his staff who had declined pay rises because they would lose too much in tax credits.

He also said “more commonly” part-time workers had refused any further hours due to the extraordinary generosity of their tax credit ‘top up’.

The Suffolk MP said that colleagues who want a u-turn should spell out what would be cut instead.

He also hit back at criticisms that the move had been poorly handled by Government.

“It has not. It’s just downright unpopular, as people on low incomes will be hit hard in the real world.” he added.

“Criticising ‘handling’ when the core of the issue is so controversial is the easy way of escaping accountability. The Government doesn’t have that luxury.”

He said: “It seems the worst hit will lose about £1500 per year, and implies they have six months to find about £30 per week, no small sum at all, but there are steelworkers who may have weeks to find an entire income. The big question is – are the many part-time working recipients willing to work more hours to be better off?

“If so, then the right ‘compromise’ in my view, as hinted at by IDS’s office in the Sunday papers, is to provide targeted support for the worst hit over six months and beyond, including perhaps additional child care (which may cost the taxpayer, but far less than an overall u-turn and perhaps minimal in deficit impact).

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