I’m not usually one to say I told you so, but it just occurred to me that George Osborne could have saved himself a lot of trouble this year if he’d just paid more attention to my tweets and blogs.
In June, two weeks before the summer Budget, as rumours were building that tax credits might be severely cut, I wrote:
Could the injustice of such [tax credit] cuts to hard-working families and attacks from his own side make this Cameron’s “10p tax rate” moment?
Did George listen? No, he went ahead and cut both tax credits and Universal Credit quite brutally.
His excuse, the introduction of the National Living Wage, was not good enough. A few hours after the Budget, I produced a blog with a clear graph showing that low income families would typically lose out in net terms by well over £1000 a year. Did George give his officials a rap over the knuckles for failing to notice this in advance, and quickly withdraw the cuts? No. It took a few weeks for various think-tanks to crunch the numbers to produce detailed reports concluding that… low income families would typically lose out in net terms by well over £1000 a year. Then a few weeks more for politicians to start jumping up and down about this, but eventually the message got through. So George floated some rumours about how he might give transitional protection to people on tax credits. This puzzled me since tax credits are supposedly about to be abolished, so how would temporarily letting claimants off their cuts be different from not making these cuts anyway. A month ago, as the Chancellor was designing his response I tweeted:
Tax credits being replaced with Universal Credit, so “transitional protection” largely reverses TC cuts. But UC being cut too: where’s IDS?
Finally, George seems to have started reading my comments. Last Wednesday, he said this:
The simplest thing to do is not to phase these changes in, but to avoid them altogether. Tax credits are being phased out anyway as we introduce Universal Credit.
Well done George, you’re doing our homework at last. But next time, do try and read my advice a bit sooner. You can make a start with my blog on last Wednesday’s statement.