It is not, says Ian Macrae, that disabled people were missing from the Chancellor’s financial plans, it’s more that the way in which we were present echoes a grim reality.
While I am not what in the modern idiom is termed “a person of faith”, Chancellor George Osborne’s latest budget brought to mind the biblical quotation attributed to Jesus of Nazareth, “The poor are always with us.”
For it was not simply that disabled people were largely absent from his speech and probably his thoughts, as we were all aware of the elephant in the room – another modern idiom – namely the lurking presence of the £1.2 billion projected cut to disabled people’s incomes due to the changes made to PIP qualification. It is also that many of the measures have any relationship or bring any benefit to the lives of many of us.
The basic rate tax threshold goes up from £11,000 to £11,500: but even conservative estimates of the unemployment rate among disabled people puts it at 50% and in some impairment groups it’s a good deal higher than that. Disabled basic rate taxpayers are therefore under-represented in the economy.
At the other end of the tax scale, the high rate threshold goes up from just over £42,000 to £45,000, a considerably greater boon for those who many might argue need it least. But even among those disabled people who are in work, how many rate as high rate taxpayers? Even fewer than those paying the basic rate.
On other fronts, more favourable rates of Capital Gains Tax and increases in cash limits for ISAs may be good news for some, but how many disabled people have cash to save?
And, as though Mr Osborne sought to add insult to injury, ITV’s Political Editor Robert Peston has pointed out on Twitter that the £1.2 billion saving resulting from the changes to PIP qualification criteria is equivalent to the sum needed to fund the changes to both the personal tax rates and Capital Gains Tax.
Another biblical quotation springs to mind.
“Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”
That sounds like it should appear above the door of George Osborne’s office.