What do the Tories have against widows?

by Stephen Tall on September 30, 2007

Desperately trying to pull rabbits out of hats ahead of their party conference, David Cameron has proudly trumpeted Tory plans to give tax breaks to married couple families.

But it’s not just those irresponsible couples who ‘live in sin’ and refuse to conform to the Tory stereotype of who makes good parents who will be penalised – as Vince Cable forcefully notes, so too will widows and widowers struggling to bring up kids on their own:

“It would appear that the so-called Tory tax cut for families is not a tax cut at all, but an increase in tax credits; a means-tested benefit subject to enormous complexity and problems with mistaken payments.

“Furthermore, the benefit will exclude large numbers of families where the parents are not married, but what the Tories would call ‘living in sin’ and it will even exclude widows bring up children on their own.”

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I am one of only forty-seven people in the UK who can actually do a tax credit calculation (reasonable rates; please send SAE) and, although I don’t know exactly what Mr Macaroon proposes to do, I can make a fairly good guess, and… I don’t think it will work to redress the “balance” in the way he is telling the Daily Mail it will. Someone somewhere has overlooked the fact that a single parent is far more likely than a couple to be claiming for help with their childcare costs as part of their Tax Credit calculation. So the alleged £2k per year differential (which is extremely crude anyway – it assumes that precisely the same numbers of single and double-parent families claim Tax Credits) will only materialise if he cuts help with childcare costs to single parents AS WELL AS introducing this married reward thing. Good luck with that one.

If I’m right (and it’s true I can’t find an actual policy statement as such, I can only find journalists misunderstanding it) it may be tremendous fun watching Mr Macaroon as he works this out.

by Alix on September 30, 2007 at 8:45 pm. Reply #

Sorry, for clarity, I should have said “childcare costs to single parents IN FULL TIME WORK” hence “Good luck with that one”.

by Alix on September 30, 2007 at 8:53 pm. Reply #

Wow, I have a PhD in econ, have followed tax credits closely, am a member of the IFS, and I can’t work them out. Alix, are you sure there are 46 other people who can?

If it goes on tax credits it also means most people won’t get it, or at least not all of it, unless it is the “family element” which is the least sensible part (and which we, rightly, have pledged to abolish).

by Tim Leunig on September 30, 2007 at 9:35 pm. Reply #

Cameron lost two votes on this in one of his marginal seats, from the reception I got yesterday.

by Daniel Bowen on October 1, 2007 at 7:46 am. Reply #

I got a complete feeling of deja vu when they released this “new” policy.

My mother was widowed when i was very little. She brought me and my brother up as a lone parent. In my early teens, under major, I remember cringing every time Tory ministers had a go at “single parents” in the 90s.

I sometimes get teased as being right wing by friends, but it’s this kind of short-sighted, narrow-minded and impractical rubbish which feeds on distrust and division in society that means i could never, ever be a Tory.

by Helen H on October 4, 2007 at 1:46 pm. Reply #

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