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Leaders’ debate: words that children living in poverty can rely on?

Tonight’s leaders’ debate on the economy only gave us more of the same obfuscation from the party leaders on the crucial question of how they will tackle the country’s record debt mountain.

Fears for what their plans will be, and how they might impact on our poorest families, will now only grow after the three leaders pointedly refused to use this last major opprtunity to come clean on their plans to balance the books.

With Robert Chote of the IFS warning of tax rises and cuts to welfare, and many other commentators claiming that the gorilla in the room is a VAT rise, it’s vital that Save the Children and other campaigning organisations speak as loudly as possible for the children whose childhoods and life chances will be destroyed by such measures, if implemented in the months to come.

Cuts to welfare and raising VAT may look like simple solutions to the fiscal black hole. But when considering them the three party leaders must answer the question: why should our most vulnerable families be asked to contribute to the bill for the economic crisis, and how can such a demand be squared with their rightful demands for a fairer Britain?

We need fairness hardwired into the government’s strategy to tackle the debt, and that has to mean that those best able to shoulder an extra burden should be the ones asked to do so.

Public services are vital to everyone but, most of all, to the poorest and most vulnerable. Their protection has to be a key priority.

Our regressive taxation system has to be rebalanced in favour of the poorest.

And the banks, at whose door the blame largely lies for the economic catastrophe, must be asked to make their contribution, the best method being a Robin Hood tax on international financial transactions which would provide the sums of money on a scale necessary to safeguard key public expenditure, prevent tax rises on the innocent victims of the crash, and perhaps still have funds left to make progress in lifting children out of poverty.

All three party leaders spoke tonight of their commitment to the poor.  But it is not words on which children in poverty can rely.

In seven days time one or more of the three men who seek to lead us will have the futures of four million children in poverty in their hands. As they finally turn to making the decisions to deal with the consequences of the biggest economic crisis since the second world war, it should be with these children in mind that they make their assessment as to what is right for our country.

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