David Fox asks “Why isn’t there a genuine party for the low-paid, homeless and those on benefits? “(Sheffield Star 9.11.22) I have got good news for him, there is! The Green Party.
We want the Government to provide everyone in the UK with a Basic Income. The Green’s plan would scrap Universal Credit and the cruel benefit sanctions regime, which push people further into poverty and destitution.
The plan would eliminate the cruelty of the current benefits system and liberate people from the anxiety of job insecurity. The Conservative Government has targeted and demonised people who face unemployment, disability and low incomes while making the rich even richer. The switch to Universal Credit and unfair benefit sanctions have caused huge suffering for so many people. A basic income would be available to everyone as a right and would not be removed when you get a job. There will be additional payments for groups of people who experience barriers to working, including disabled people, single parents and people of pension age.
The Greens support a £15 per hour minimum wage and are supporting Trade Unions in their struggles for fair pay increases at least in line with inflation.
The Greens want a new emergency tax package which will see both polluters and the richest pay their fair share to enable a nationwide insulation and renewable energy programme that will provide people with warmer, more comfortable homes, bring bills down permanently and reduce inequality.
The package includes a wealth tax on the richest 1% of households, raising at least £70 billion, alongside closing the loopholes in the Conservatives’ windfall tax on oil and gas companies and backdating it to January 2022. This ‘dirty profits tax’ would force the biggest polluters to pay for the damage they cause while protecting everyone else as we transition to a carbon-free future.
The Sheffield Stop and Scrap Universal Credit campaign, which Sheffield Green Party is part of, is calling on the Chancellor to keep the £20 uplift – the increase in Universal Credit brought in at the beginning of the pandemic. The Government plans to cut this £20 a week on 31 March 2021.
Benefit rates in the UK, for those of working age, are extremely low compared to those in Europe. The £20 uplift stopped some people falling into the most dire of financial circumstances but it is nowhere near enough to avoid people experiencing significant hardship, with people often being unable to feed their families or pay their bills.
According to the Resolution Foundation, pressing ahead with the £20 cut would see the level of unemployment support fall to its lowest real-terms level since 1990-91 and its lowest ever, relative to average earnings. The basic level of out-of-work support prior to the March boost was – at £73 a week (£3,800 a year) – less than half the absolute poverty line. Even if the £20 stays, the level of benefits will not provide enough income to meet basic needs.
Sheffield City Council has reported a fourfold increase in use of foodbanks since the start of the Covid crisis. Spires Foodbank in Arbourthorne reported a 1000 % increase in demand for food aid in the first lockdown. The council has now set up a Working Group on Food Poverty.
Sheffield Green Party calls on the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to announce in the budget on 3 March that the £20 uplift will be maintained. We also want the government to recognise the need to introduce a Universal Basic Income as a long term solution to poverty. Sheffield City Council has already passed a motion in support of UBI and it has long been Green Party policy. We must address the injustice of income inequality.