What’s The Beef With The Budget?
- Juliet Dowley
You might have heard that the budget has spelled the worst thing for young people since Zayn left 1D, but why exactly is it so bad? Juliet Dowley breaks it down
Chancellor George Osborne plans to reduce welfare spending by a whopping £20 billion by 2020, so the first fully Conservative budget for 19 years was always going to involve big cuts. But is it true, as Labour finance minister Jane Hutt claimed, that the budget was an ‘assault’ on younger people. Despite Osborne claiming that the cuts will be ‘good for young people’, I’m taking a look at what the changes actually mean for us.
1. The Increase In the Minimum Wage (Sort Of)
The Government has announced that the minimum wage – that’s the minimum amount of money that employers have to pay us every hour – will increase to £7.20 by April 2016 and will become a ‘living wage’ of £9 an hour by 2020. It sounds great, doesn’t it? But there’s a catch: that increase will only apply to those over 25. 18-20 year olds will still only have to be paid £5.13 an hour, and 21-25 year olds £6.50.
So, when Osborne declared that: “Britain deserves a pay rise”, he was apparently not thinking about Britain’s younger citizens. I believe that there’s no reason at all why employers should be allowed to pay young people less. They are often just as motivated, talented and productive as their older counterparts. This is especially true for 21-25 year olds, many of whom have families to support and rent to pay.
2. The Scrapping Of Maintenance Grants
Yes, this is yet another measure that will hit university students. At the moment, students whose parents earn less than £25,000 receive £3,387 each year towards their living expenses while they’re at university – and they don’t have to pay it back. Now, the Government will no longer pay this money because of what Osborne sees as the “basic unfairness in asking taxpayers to fund grants for people who are likely to earn a lot more than them”.
But he seems to have forgotten something. Without the grant, these students wouldn’t be able to go to university at all, so by funding these grants the taxpayer is actually investing in these people’s futures. As for the Government’s plan to ‘replace’ the grant by increasing the maximum maintenance loan to £8,200… isn’t student debt high enough already?
3. The Apprenticeship Levy
Finally, some good news for young people! The Government’s promised to give money to big businesses to help fund 3 million new apprenticeships. Apprenticeships allow people to earn money while learning the skills they’ll need for the rest of their careers, this could make a real difference million’s of young people’s lives.
4. The Rise In Tuition Fees (Again)
Just three years after tuition fees rose to £9000 a year, yet another increase has been announced. From 2017-18, universities that offer ‘high quality teaching’ will be able to increase their fees in line with inflation. Luckily for many, this does at least mean that fees will stay frozen until then but unluckily for me, the increases look likely to coincide with my last year of school.
5. The Loss Of Benefits For The Unemployed
The Government has said that all those aged 18-21 must ‘earn or learn’. This means that after six months those who don’t apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship must do a compulsory work placement or they will lose their benefits. Osborne has promised an “intensive regime of support from day 1” for job seekers, but will this really happen in practice? Or is this just yet another way of taking money from young people? And will the work placements genuinely help people improve their skills, or will they just involve stacking supermarket shelves without being paid for it?
6. The Loss Of Housing Benefit For (Most) 18-21 Year Olds
This cut does exactly what it says on the tin – almost all 18-21 year olds will no longer be able to claim housing benefit, presumably because the government believes that they can live with their parents. However, although the Chancellor did promise that exceptions would be made for ‘vulnerable people’, he didn’t make it clear what this will mean in practice, so there are fears that those young people whose homes are not safe could end up on the streets. At least Iain Duncan Smith’s happy. (Below)
7. The Increase In The Personal Allowance
Thankfully, this policy could also have a positive impact on young people. The amount of money that people can earn without paying any tax will be increased to £11 000. So almost everyone in the UK will be able to keep slightly more of their earnings and, because many young people are on low incomes, they will feel the impact more than higher earners.
Young people certainly aren’t the only ones complaining about this budget. Parents, those on low incomes and even some of the highest earners will also be hit hard. But I can’t help feeling that young people seem to be bearing more of the burden, than, for example, pensioners. And there could be a reason for this: in 2010, just 44% of 18-24 year olds turned out to vote, compared to 76% of over 65s.
So maybe, just maybe, if more young people turn out to vote in future elections, politicians will listen more to their views.