Milburn says Labour’s minimum wage target not ambitious enough

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Alan Milburn, the former Labour minister who now chairs the commission on social mobility and child poverty, has launched an excoriating attack on all three major political parties for failing to face up to the reality of poverty in Britain. The commission will today publish its second State of the Nation review, and Milburn says he “hope[s] today’s report makes uncomfortable reading for all political parties”.

In an article in this morning’s Times (£), Milburn slams plans to make real-terms cuts to in-work benefits over the next Parliament, claiming it “will make the 5 million working poor worse off”, while despairing that Labour’s pledge to raise the National Minimum Wage to £8 an hour by 2020 is not “at all ambitious”.

He says that the aim to halve child poverty by 2020 is no longer achievable, yet no party is willing to admit this:

“None of these approaches is anywhere near good enough to improve prospects for social mobility or to allow the 2020 Child Poverty Act targets to be met.

Without radical changes to boost the incomes of working poor families, there is no realistic hope of those targets being met. None of the main political parties has been willing to embrace such changes nor to speak this uncomfortable truth. They are all guilty of being less than frank with the public. It is vital that the next government comes clean.”

Milburn was criticised by Labour figures when he took the role as this Government’s “social mobility tsar”, but has since won plaudits for his frank criticism of efforts to tackle the problems.

Gloria De Piero, the Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, has praised today’s report in The Guardian today. She argues that to improve social mobility in government, “social background must be given the same attention as the other measures of diversity monitored by the civil service – gender, ethnicity and disability”. Over the coming weeks, De Piero and Shadow Education Minister Tristram Hunt will be looking into how Labour can improve social mobility in power.

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