By Claire West

Responding to George Osborne's announcement to end child benefit for higher earners, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said today that it was the first step towards ending universal benefits and a return to means-testing.

The government has already frozen child benefit for the next three years - a real terms cut of over 10%, which will increase child poverty. PCS believes there is an alternative to cuts and that attacking child benefit when there is an annual tax gap of £120 billion, proves PCS's assertion that government is making cuts for ideological reasons.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:

"Child benefit is a universal right, paid to parents towards the cost of raising children. This is clearly the first step in removing universal rights and turning back the clock to the days of means-testing.

"Today it is child benefit, but tomorrow it will be means-testing for the state pension, winter fuel allowance, or free bus travel.

"Osborne's method of back-door means-testing is ill-considered and should be abandoned. A household in London, or the South East, with one person earning £44,000 may not have a high level of disposable income, due to high housing costs. This will squeeze already tight household budgets at a time when the government claims it is committed to tackling child poverty."