Tories shamelessly exempt Northern Ireland from savage Free School Meals cuts to protect DUP deal

Since her demise, the Tories have struggled to find an ideologue like Thatcher, the woman who exemplified and defined everything the Conservatives stand for. But now, Theresa May appears to be desperately attempting to follow in the Iron Lady’s socially-catastrophic footsteps. First, we had Maggie Thatcher the milk snatcher; now, it seems we are to have Theresa May the lunch snatcher. Unless, that is, you happen to live in Northern Ireland.

In legislation that will get voted on tomorrow, immediately following the Spring Statement, the Tories are set to cut the threshold for free school meals for the children of families on Universal Credit to £7,400 per year.

The threshold will represent a ‘cliff edge’, meaning that if families earn a penny over it, they will have their entitlement to free school meals removed completely. In contrast, in order to fund school lunches for one child for a year, said families would need to cough up an extra £1,100. 

Such a situation leads to a perverse incentive for families not to want to earn more than £7,400 per year.

However, it seems that in an effort to ensure the 10 DUP MPs in Parliament side with them in the vote tomorrow, the Tories have incredibly decided to exempt Northern Ireland, where the threshold will be almost double, at £14,000. 

The cuts mean that around England, 212,000 children in London stand to go hungry, 130,000 in the West Midlands and 130,000 in the North West.

The Government’s inconsistency in applying the Universal Credit cut highlights a lack of real vision at the heart of our leaders’ policy. In order to get the requisite amount of votes for a deeply unpopular policy, they are reduced to exempting Northern Ireland from the fallout of that policy so that the DUP can vote it through for other areas. The perverseness is astounding.

The development comes as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation revealed that the poorest fifth of working families in the UK are, after 8 years of cuts to welfare and the rising cost of living, worse off than they were before 2010. 

Yet instead of doing anything about it, Hammond intends to put the windfall from Universal Credit savings to further reducing the deficit in some vain attempt at sound public finances. What exactly is supposed to happen when that’s reduced? 

There is no one at the helm of this ship. Just a captain reduced to massaging his cabin boy whilst the men below deck starve and the ship careens around in circles, heading absolutely nowhere.

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