This column was published in the Llanelli Herald on 23 October 2015
I remember the tension in the house when money was tight.
I still can still remember the stress in my parents’ voices as they poured over the family budget trying to stretch their pay. Both worked hard, my father often putting in double shifts at Abernant colliery to make ends meet; My mother juggling three kids with hairdressing.
It was tough, and the Family Allowance made all the difference.
It was to help families like mine that the Labour Government came up with the Minimum Wage and the Working Families Tax credit. The idea of making work pay was central to Labour’s agenda in power.
I immediately identified with the mother on BBC’s Question Time who challenged the Tory Cabinet Minister for cutting Working Families Tax credits when David Cameron promised in the election he wouldn’t.
Michelle Dorrell's voice was crackling, and her eyes filled with tears as she said “I voted Conservative originally because I thought you would be the better chance for me and my children. You're about to cut tax credits after promising you wouldn't. I work bloody hard for my money to provide for my children, to give them everything they've got. And you're going to take it away from me and them. Shame on you!"
60% of families in the Llanelli constituency receive tax credits.
The Tories are planning to make it harder for them to claim support. The amount a household can earn before the benefit starts to be taken away is being almost HALVED, from £6,420 a year to £3,850 a year.
We want people to work and not fall back on benefits unless there’s no alternative, and yet David Cameron is going to penalise 4,100 families with children in work in Llanelli by a cutting 10% of their monthly income at a time when their finances are already stretched.
And why? To send a "cultural signal" to low paid workers that they need to work even harder – that’s what Jeremy Hunt, the richest member of the Tory Cabinet said.
They just don’t get it.
There’s no point squeezing hard working low paid families when they don’t have the option of higher paid work. The risk is they’ll take away the incentive for work and people will calculate it’s not worth having a job.
There’s no point raising the Minimum Wage with one hand, and taking away Tax Credits with another. Even after the so-called Living Wage the highly respected Institute for Fiscal Studies says any rise will be wiped out by the cuts in tax credits.
Families who are trying their best to make a descent life for their kids are being hammered, while the rich are getting tax cuts.
Unless you’ve known what it is to struggle you’ll never understand the strain. And once you’ve understood it, you won’t sit by and let the lowest paid take the strain.
Lee Waters is Welsh Labour's candidate for Llanelli in May's Assembly elections.