Thought for the day. July 5th. Brown’s poverty machine. By Brian Binley MP

This week I have consistently tried to highlight some of the Prime Minister’s schemes enacted as Chancellor.

But one of the most disastrous has been his signature policy – the Tax Credits scheme. Figures for the last year are still to be published but nearly £6bn has already been overpaid to families in the three short years prior to that.

The Treasury assures us these credits help families out of poverty and back into work. They don’t tell us that clawing the money back has the opposite effect. I do not recall any other issue, with the exception of pensions, that has plagued the Chancellor so much. And for good reason.

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I meet many families at my surgeries who have been driven to distraction by the problems tax credits have caused and I have received many letters from others facing the same problems.

At the very worst, families have been left distraught and dismayed. At best they are left with a huge headache, increased stress and financial insecurity as they wonder if their payments are correct or if indeed they will be forced into making repayments they cannot afford.

And yet the Government states that the situation is getting better. They must be joking.

Official Government figures claim that 56,000 fewer families were overpaid in 2005/2006 than in the previous year. However, as a percentage that amounts is less than a 3% improvement, despite assurances that the problem would be solved. By my calculations it would take a further 17 years and £13.5bn of overpayments, with all the misery clawback causes, before the problem is dealt with.

The truth is that overpayments most hurt those the system is said to be designed to help. Yet the former Chancellor continues to deny the heartache he has caused.

An apology should be forthcoming but sadly he isn’t big enough to make one. Does that mean he is not big enough to be Prime Minister?

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Brian Binley MP

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