George Osborne was accused of slashing welfare to fund tax breaks for the rich after it emerged that nearly a third of all his Budget cuts will come from disability benefits.
Charities and Labour reacted angrily as the Chancellor confirmed he would save £4.4bn by cutting Personal Independence Payments (PIP) to 640,000 people by 2020.
The cuts, first unveiled by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, will axe £590m in 2017/18 – the same year that the wealthy will gain £630m in capital gains tax relief.
Mr Osborne said that he wanted the PIP money – which is used to help disabled people who struggle to get dressed, travel or use the toilet – to be ‘better targeted’ and even claimed he was raising the amount overall.
But the small print of the Budget showed that he will be cutting huge sums from the expected funds for disability benefits, and cuts to PIP will net the Treasury a whopping £1.1bn in 2018/19, rising to £1.3bn in 2019/20.
And in 2020/21, they will total £1.2bn - 30% of all Government savings that year, Labour said.
Over the same period, the Tories are giving better off earners a £523-a-year tax cut by putting up the threshold for higher rate income tax.
Within minutes of the Budget, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell vowed to reverse the disability benefit cuts, telling HuffPostUK that he would hike up Corporation Tax on business to its previous rate to help fund the cost.
Tighter rules on PIP mean that 290,000 fewer people will be eligible for any help, and a further 80,000 will get cuts in their money.
Cuts to the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will also reduce income by £30 a week to £73 for some people.
Charities, which have long campaigned against the cuts, were dismayed by the Chancellor’s statement.
Jeremy Corbyn led the charge in the Commons, pointing out that the disability cuts were happening at the same time as a big cut in Corporation Tax.
“The price of failure is being borne by the most vulnerable in our society…They are the actions of a cruel and callous Government.”
And Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith was equally scathing.
Former Shadow Chancellor Chris Leslie piled in too, as did former Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper.
Green party MP Caroline Lucas accused Mr Osborne of ‘breathtaking hypocrisy’, while other Twitter users said this was 'Robin Hood' in reverse.
Mark Atkinson, chief executive at disability charity Scope said: “Today the Chancellor confirmed benefit changes that will make many disabled people’s lives harder.
“We know disabled people are very worried and our helpline has received many calls from anxious disabled people. Life costs more if you are disabled – Scope research shows that they add up to on average £550 per month.”
Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive of the MS Society, added: "Changes to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will increase anxiety and fear in thousands of people with MS.”
Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: "Disabled people who rely on PIP for help to get dressed or use the toilet will be worried about the impact this Budget has on their ability to live an independent life.”
The DWP says that the PIP was being introduced to replace the ‘outdated’ Disability Living Allowance but says court judgements have change some assessment criteria for disability aids like walking sticks and rails in the home.
And Mr Osborne was defiant today. "The disability budget will still rise by more than £1billion, and we’ll be spending more in real terms supporting disabled people than at any point under the last government."
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