Grant Shapps is Chairman of the Conservative Party and MP for Welwyn Hatfield
Today, thousands of people will go to the polls to vote in the local elections. It’s an important time for us and every vote will count.
We need to really get behind our councillors in this election. At town halls up and down the country they’re working hard – cutting waste and cutting council tax – one of the largest household bills after your rent or mortgage. We need to support this great work in local government. To do that, we need to show exactly what we’re achieving as Conservatives in central government – important things we’re doing to support people who want to work hard and get on, and things we can be proud of.
There’s no better example of this than the work than our tax and welfare reforms. Over the past month, this government has implemented a range of tax and welfare changes that will leave a lasting legacy. Over the last four weeks we have made significant changes that will make work pay and support those who do the right thing.
These radical reforms show we are firmly on the side of those who work hard and want to build a better life for themselves and their families.
Even in tough times, where reducing the deficit is a top priority, we have:
- Cut income tax for 24 million hardworking people, so they are paying £600 less in income tax than in 2010
- Taken 2.2 million people out of income tax altogether
- Started the Benefit Cap, so no household can claim more than £26,000, the amount the average working family earns
- Begun to make work pay through Universal Credit
- Capped the increase of most benefits to 1 per cent – rather than in line with inflation – so they do not rise faster than workers’ wages
- Ended the spare room subsidy. There are more than a quarter of a million households living in overcrowded accommodation, with nearly 2 million families waiting for social housing, and yet there are one million spare rooms across the social housing sector. If someone continues to live in a council house that is bigger than they need, they will need to make a contribution towards that extra bedroom.
- Increased the Basic State Pension to £110.15 per week – a 2.5 per cent rise compared to last year, rewarding older people who have done the right thing and contributed to Britain over their lifetime
- We have replaced the old Disability Living Allowance with the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP), better targeting the billions of pounds we spend on disability benefits to those who need help the most. Currently, half of all decisions to put someone on disability benefit are made on the basis of the claim form alone. PIP will include a new face-to-face assessment and regular reviews – something missing in the current system.
As a result of all our changes this April, official Treasury figures show that nine out of ten working families will be better off.
This past month has proved that this government is firmly on the side of hard working people who want to get on. Equally, it has demonstrated the sort of radical reform that the Conservative party is capable of in government.
But April has also shown that Labour still don’t get it. Despite creating the mess we are dealing with now, Labour have opposed all of our changes to welfare to make the system fair for hardworking people. It's just the same old Labour.
Labour still think some households should be able to claim more in benefits than the average hardworking household earns. They oppose the benefit cap. But our message is clear and fair – we will provide support to those who need it, but the days of outrageous claims giving people incomes far above those of working families are over.
In January, Ed Miliband said he would protect universal pensioner benefits, that means testing ‘wasn’t a road he wanted to go down’. But just yesterday he confirmed Labour would be looking at pensioner benefits again.
This week, thanks to the work of this Conservative-led government, hardworking people across the country will see our income tax cut in their pay packets. But if Ed Miliband and Ed Balls got their way, they’d saddle us with £83 billion more borrowing and more debt – more of what got us into this mess in the first place – and that’s just to pay for their ever growing welfare bill. They have opposed everything we’ve done to get the welfare budget back under control, without putting forward any firm ideas of their own.
This April we showed Labour up for exactly what it is. A party offering no leadership, with no ideas for Britain’s future. The Welfare Party. Same Old Labour.
So I’ve been telling people in my patch exactly why they should vote Conservative – because we’ve showed that, even in these tough times, Conservatives are the party who back people who want to work hard and get on in life – and we’re making it happen.