The shock resignation of Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has blown apart Osborne’s Budget. But the idea that IDS did this in protest at cuts to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) is utterly laughable. What he neglected to mention when he resigned was:
PIP was introduced by IDS from 2013 and was solely designed to cut 20% of the resources available to disabled people seeking this benefit or Disability Living Allowance (DLA);
His department consulted on the change that he claims led to his resignation from December last year – over three months ago;
He signed off the DWP response to that consultation on 11th March – which concluded to go ahead with an additional PIP cut. This was five days before the Budget was announced and a week before he resigned.
So I am not surprised that the Prime Minister was apparently ‘puzzled’ at IDS resigning – although I share none of Cameron’s disappointment with him going.
Whilst I believe IDS quit ahead of the EU referendum, his resignation has shone a light on the Government’s record towards disabled people. The Coalition – with willing Lib Dem partners – and now the Conservative administration have overseen:
Cuts to DLA/PIP that will still affect over 600,000 disabled people, including about 9,000 in Bermondsey and Old Southwark;
440,000 disabled people forced to pay the Bedroom Tax – including thousands in Southwark; and
Restrictions and changes to Employment and Support Allowance affecting hundreds of thousands more disabled people out of work – including the most recent £30 per week axe in help for people with cancer, learning disabilities and long-term health conditions like Parkinsons.
The Government’s track record towards disabled people is shameful in the fifth largest economy in the world. It forms part of a pattern of misguided political priorities which have seen the highest earners receive tax reductions whilst our most disadvantaged citizens have lost out time and again. IDS should have gone long ago – and taken Osborne with him.
IDS’ resignation has led to the u-turn on the latest PIP cuts by Osborne though – and an accompanying £4.4 billion hole in the Budget announced last week. The Chancellor has failed to apologise for the chaos, u-turn, damage towards disabled people in the Budget debates and is yet to explain how this hole will be filled. I hope it does not put my PIP rule change at risk and hope is not on the backs of disabled people, but the Government’s record suggests they will seek to reduce help elsewhere as a result of being forced to backtrack on this issue.