The quantity of finance being granted to low-income workers in the UK through benefits is ëmanifestly inadequateí, as it is less than the 40% European median income, according to the Council of Europe in a conference in France.
In their yearly review of Britainís conduct in accordance to the European social charter, the Council found that pension, jobseekerís allowance and other benefit payments were lower than the threshold identified in the charter, and is likely to induce a heated debate between the coalition government and the European law policymakers.
The COE identified that their findings would be legally binding in the same virtue that any decisions made about European law on humans are as well.
Work and Pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has dismissed the Councilís allegations as ëlunacyí, and has defended the changes made to the benefit system by the coalition administration last year.
He added that whilst the Councilís comments would be ëconsideredí by UK courts, that they would not be legally binding in any manner, and is likely to cause a dispute that could take a long time to resolve between both parties.
In a scathing attack on Britainís existing benefit system, the European committee of social rights argued:: “Even if the minimum levels of short-term and long-term incapacity benefits, state pension and jobseeker’s allowance satisfy the requirements of the European code of social security, they are manifestly inadequate in the meaning of article 12ß1 of the charter as they fall below 40% of the Eurostat median equivalised income”.
It added: “The committee notes Ö that short-term incapacity benefit stood at £71 and long-term incapacity benefit at £94 per week. ESA and jobseeker’s allowance stood at £67 per week. As regards the state pension, it stood at £102).”
Britain was not the only country that faced criticism from the Council yesterday, with 38 other states being identified as guilty for breaking some form of law or regulation.
Duncan Smith said: “This government has made great strides in fixing the welfare system so that spending is brought under control. It’s lunacy for the Council of Europe to suggest welfare payments need to increase when we paid out £204bn in benefits and pensions last year alone.
“Whether for short-term needs or longer-term support, millions of people find that the welfare system provides a valuable and fair safety net when they need it most. And thanks to the triple lock, pensioners are now benefiting from a state pension that represents the highest share of earnings in over 20 years. This is meaningful support helping people every single day.”
The governmentís reform to the benefits system has garnered widespread criticism in recent times, with many working class families struggling to cope with the changes in their finances that the new universal credit initiative has brought about.
Labour has hit out the cuts as ill-timed and damaging to the personal financial situation of thousands across the country, whilst recent statistics have indicated that the changes have had an adverse impact on the number of people who are in some form of arrears with their council tax, rent, or loan payments.
The Council of Europeís criticisms have not been met positively back here in the UK, with politicians unhappy with an external body trying to change the policy of a government who has a clear and legitimate mandate.
The question of sovereignty whilst European membership has always been raised since the UK joined over 40 years ago and the Councilís remarks will undoubtedly start a bitter dispute about its powers and how far it can actually go to shape British policy in general.