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Bin it: We don't need the Taxpayers' Alliance or its rubbish ideas.

Bin it: We don’t need the Taxpayers’ Alliance or its rubbish ideas.

For a change, it isn’t the government!

The Taxpayers’ Alliance, an organisation of right-wingers determined to turn the UK into a low-tax economy by any possible means, has decided that Universal Credit claimants need to do community service-style unpaid work – or they shouldn’t receive a penny.

According to the BBC, the group reckons people should do 30 hours’ unpaid activity every week, and has suggested this could save £3.5 billion in social security payments every year.

Is that because it has worked so well in the past?

Schemes like this are already in place for jobseekers and, guess what, they don’t work. It costs more money to employ the private firms that administer them than they ever succeed in saving, and their success rate in getting people into jobs is so bad that benefit claimants would have a better chance of success if they just go and look for work by themselves.

In addition, Universal Credit will be paid to working people who claim, for example, tax credits and/or housing benefit. They have to claim these benefits because their employers do not pay them enough money to cover all their necessary outgoings – food, rent, electricity and so on. That is a result of right-wing government policy that aims to keep wages low. How are these low-paid working people supposed to fit another 30 hours’ work into their already-busy week?

Also: Community service? That’s what convicted criminals do. Unemployment is not a criminal offence and every TPA member should be ashamed that their leaders have conflated the two.

Finally, for every person carrying out unpaid work, a paid job is removed from the economy. Has it not occurred to the Taxpayers’ Alliance that the amount HMRC collects from them might drop, if more people were actually paying taxes?

Probably not, but then – oh, look – it seems the TPA is being investigated for, don’t laugh, dodging tax.

“Taxpayers rightly expect something back for the enormous amount they pay for out-of-work benefits, at the very least a real commitment to find a job as soon as possible,” said TPA chief executive Matthew Sinclair, proving in a single sentence that he understands neither Universal Credit nor the fact that people who claim it are also taxpayers.

No – this is not about helping anybody. It won’t save government money; it won’t help businesses and it certainly won’t help people on Universal Credit.

This is about demeaning people who are already in a very difficult place through no fault of their own. It is about pretending that they are a burden on society when it is the government’s own schemes – and the schemes that the TPA wants brought in – that are creating the burden.

Still, today’s misguided and wholly wrong-headed outburst does allow us to clarify what is needed.

People in work need to be paid a living wage, and should be respected by their employers for the work that they do.

And firms currently taking part in unpaid ‘workfare’ schemes need to be told that enough is enough; they’ve had the benefit of free workers for many years, and now it’s time to give something back by turning those positions into paid jobs – again at the living wage.

People in paid work pay taxes – and those earning enough that they don’t need any benefits at all are a double boon to the Exchequer because they pay into the Treasury but do not take anything out.

That is the way forward.