These are desperate times for our area. And they are desperate times for the government as well. By any measure they are failing because underneath all the bluster they don’t have any answers for their catastrophic failure to get Britain working again. Their Work Programme is failing and there are now more than 2,500 people out of work in the Makerfield constituency.
This government has simply ran out of ideas and their supposed reforms are not only heartless, but also hopeless. Housing benefit changes cost more than they save, tax credit changes are making families better off on benefits than in work, and universal credit is descending into universal chaos.
We need welfare reform that is tough, fair, and that works. That’s why Labour is calling for a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee for the long-term unemployed that would get 240 people and 120 young people into work.
When I hear people on the doorstep or in my surgeries tell me welfare needs to be reformed I agree with them. That’s why Labour is calling for welfare reform that is tough, fair and that is founded on three principles.
First, people must be better off in work than living on benefits. We would make work pay by reintroducing a 10p tax rate and supporting employers who pay the living wage.
Second, we would match rights with responsibilities. Labour would ensure that no adult will be able to be live on the dole for over two years and no young person for over a year. They will be offered a real job with real training, real prospects and real responsibility. This would be paid for by taxing bankers' bonuses and restricting pension tax relief for the wealthiest. People would have to take this opportunity or lose their benefits.
Third, we must do more to strengthen the old principle of contribution: there are lots of people right now who feel they pay an awful lot more in than they ever get back. That should change.
I believe Britain can only overcome the enormous challenges we face if all of us – from top to bottom – play our part.
Because behind all their rhetoric about making work pay and supporting strivers, it is actually working families and those in real need who are footing the bill for this government's catastrophic economic failure.
The truth is the Tories have failed on jobs, failed on growth and they are failing to make the real changes we need. After three years of incompetence it’s time this government finally started to put things right for Makerfield and they should start with Labour’s Compulsory Jobs Guarantee that is tough, fair and will work.