Government scrooges are turning screw on the poor

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In A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens features 'a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner.'

His name is Ebeneezer Scrooge. When asked for a contribution to help the poor at Christmas, Scrooge replies, 'Are there no prisons? And the Union Workhouses? The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour?

'I was afraid ... that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course... those who are badly off must go there.'

The treadmill and workhouse have gone. But Scrooge's sentiments could justly apply to the gang of scrooges otherwise known as the Con-Dems.

In 1870, the year of Dickens's death, the Education Act enabled all children to attend state schools for the first time. Now these schools are being sold off to privateers whose last concern is the education of our children.

Further, by trebling student debt, the government is deterring students from lower and middle-income families from higher education.

The latest wheeze by a government intent on dealing with a deficit caused by the rich is to turn the screws even more on the poor.

They want to make the jobless perform four-week periods of compulsory unpaid work on pain of having their benefits stopped for up to three months. Whoever would have thought the Victorian workhouse would return in the 21st century?

Currently, jobseeker's allowance for the over-25s is 65.40 per week. For the under-25s it is 50.95. Neither sum can be described as providing luxury.

Unemployment is a stressful experience. The stigma, social opprobrium, indignity and financial hardship involved are totally at odds with notions of workshy scroungers living a life of Riley.

According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, there are five applicants for every new job. With 500,000 public sector jobs to be scrapped, that figure will rise. Punishing those without work is the priority of those who govern, not for the benefit of our country, but to add to the obscene wealth of the undeserving rich.

Echoing Tiny Tim, we might say 'God bless us every one.' Not just the rich and privileged.