Osborne’s clumsy stumble over tax credits

The chancellor's putting numbers ahead of people is an occupational hazard, but also a personal shortcoming.


George Osborne: ideology more important than humanity?

It has taken a "long time for the balloon to go up", says John Rentoul in The Independent. The Budget was three months ago, yet it wasn't until recentlythat the House of Lords "finally forced a retreat on tax credits". It remains a mystery why George Osborne ever thought it was sensible to take large sums away from the working poor. As noted in the Financial Times, the cuts hit the very "strivers" the Tories promised to shield: for example, a bank clerk with two children stood to lose £2,262.

During a debate on the subject, "freed to express their doubts", not one Tory backbencher supported the proposals in full, says Patrick Wintour in The Guardian.They instead warned that the £4.4bn cuts went too far and told Osborne that they should either not be imposed on current recipients or be delayed until the end of this parliament, when substantial changes to the national minimum wage will take effect. Yet the national living wage isn't the answer either, says Kate Andrews in The Daily Telegraph.

The Office for BudgetResponsibility reckons it will put 60,000 of the most needy out of work. A better solution that avoids job losses is tax reform that lets workers keep more of their earnings removing the lowest paid from income tax and national insurance altogether.

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Osborne didn't knock £4.4bn off the working tax credit out of "foolishness or brute evil" he simply "had nowhere else to go", says Aditya Chakrabortty in The Guardian. He has promised to save billions of pounds, but is boxed in by "iron-clad promises" protecting everything from health care to pensioners. We will see more such episodes and they will hurt the Tories' standing with voters.

Osborne's real mistake was to treat tax credits as an accounting problem rather than a human one, says Rachel Sylvester in The Times. Putting numbers ahead of people is "an occupational hazard" for chancellors, but for Osborne it is also a "personal shortcoming". He must not behave as if "ideology is more important to him that humanity he must remember that politics is about people".

Emily Hohler

Emily has worked as a journalist for more than thirty years and was formerly Assistant Editor of MoneyWeek, which she helped launch in 2000. Prior to this, she was Deputy Features Editor of The Times and a Commissioning Editor for The Independent on Sunday and The Daily Telegraph. She has written for most of the national newspapers including The Times, the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, The Evening Standard and The Daily Mail, She interviewed celebrities weekly for The Sunday Telegraph and wrote a regular column for The Evening Standard. As Political Editor of MoneyWeek, Emily has covered subjects from Brexit to the Gaza war.

Aside from her writing, Emily trained as Nutritional Therapist following her son's diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes in 2011 and now works as a practitioner for Nature Doc, offering one-to-one consultations and running workshops in Oxfordshire.