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1% cap on benefits rise will hit nearly 300,000 Westcountry homes

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 09, 2013

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Almost 300,000 Westcountry households are poised to see their benefits cut after a Commons vote backed controversial legislation to cap welfare.

A three-year squeeze on most working age welfare payments and tax credits was backed by a Government majority of 56, despite a Westcountry-led Liberal Democrat rebellion.

By uprating benefits by 1% – rather than pegging hand-outs to inflation – ministers will slash £5 billion from the welfare bill.

The Department for Work and Pension's official impact assessment showed yesterday 30% of households will be hit by the reform. If the rate was applied to the Westcountry, 298,000 families would be affected.

Ministers say the cap is needed because it is unfair that state handouts have been rising twice as fast as wages during recent years of austerity. The 1% cap does not apply to benefits handed to pensioners, to the disabled or to carers, said Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

Labour voted against the legislation ending inflation-linked rises, pointing to analysis that showed seven million working households will lose out by an average £165 per year.

Andrew George, Lib Dem MP for St Ives, was among the backbenchers uneasy with the plan, saying he will vote against it until it is made fairer to all low income households. The Bill will face further votes in Parliament.

He told MPs in the Commons during a fierce debate: "We do not know ... what food price inflation will be in, for example, 2016.

"We are being asked to predict what the circumstances will be in the context of the rather arbitrary figure of 1%. I simply urge the minister to keep an open mind, and to have a means by which we will uprate that is fair to both benefit recipients and those in work."

Truro and Falmouth Conservative MP Sarah Newton, also the party's deputy chairman, admitted "people will be squeezed" but that the reform "is fundamentally about fairness".

She added while some working families will lose some benefits, income tax has been cut for the lowest paid which is "helping millions of people in the South West".

The Cornwall MP also dismissed suggestions the Government was attempting to drive a wedge between "strivers" in work and "skivers" living a life on benefits.

She said: "I don't think any Conservative politician is using that language. You do read that in some tabloid media, but I haven't used that language, Iain Duncan Smith hasn't used that language, and the Prime Minister hasn't used that language. Most people who are unemployed want a job, and we are working to ensure they can get one."

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  • SidneyNuff  |  January 09 2013, 11:25PM

    Get up in the morning, get a job and get off endless benefits. And stop moaning about how much FREE money you are getting

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  • Corsham999  |  January 09 2013, 7:59PM

    The unemployed in the South West area claiming benefits number 117K (info u gov). The number of jobs being advertised in the South West as at Dec 12 was 158K (some are part time). Some people have just got used to being on benefits for whatever reason.As a % of the UK GDP benefits are to high something has to give.I believe that there has to be a safety net of benefits for people that need it and are entitled to claim it,not at the levels it is now though.

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  • josdave  |  January 09 2013, 3:21PM

    The benefit system needs a drastic overhaul but having said that for anyone on, say, £100 a week benefit the difference between an increase of £1 and £2 a week will not be noticed. The benefit system should be able to give those in genuine need all the help to which they are entitled but there are far too many scroungers who make a very good living out of abusing the system. It is not to fund holidays, lifestyle, expensive home gadgets or cars but that is what is happening as far too many make being on benefit a lifestyle. There needs to be a purge to get rid of these parasites and help the needy.

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  • josdave  |  January 09 2013, 3:14PM

    Take a hypothetical case where a person is getting £100 a week benefit. This move will see it go up to £101 instead of £102 and nobody will suffer any hardship because of that. The system needs a drastic overhaul whereby those in genuine need get all the help to which they are entitled and the scroungers get nothing or very little. The benefit system is not there to fund holidays, lifestyle, expensive home gadgets or cars but too many use it for that to the extent that benefit has become a lifestyle.

  • JJLee  |  January 09 2013, 3:09PM

    Beehive summed it up best, we need jobs, once we have a competitive working culture this stuff can be lowered to discourage those opting out of contributing to the tax system, until we have mass employment this is all pie in the sky, but goes without saying we can not keep funding those who have never lifted a finger the same way as we should not allow the mega rich from paying tax and insurance. We need people to show everyone respect rich and poor

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  • H_Trevorrow  |  January 09 2013, 2:40PM

    ''We NEED to get the system back to what it was supposed to be, a safety net for society, not a lifestyle choice. But most of all we need to stop encouraging those that abuse it as a lifestyle choice to breed more of the same.'' Well said Smarty c One of the only upsides of this recession will be to get the lowlife long term scroungers off the backs of those who create the wealth.

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  • kimmyp  |  January 09 2013, 2:36PM

    SmartyC Couldn't agree with you more. we have a girl living accross from us, two babies in two years, two dads long gone, never worked, pays for nothing, contributes nothing, already has her name down for a bigger house and uses taxi's to go shopping. I know the children don't ask to be born and they have to be provided for but it makes my blood boil that people like us who work bloomin hard and make the sacrifices we have to provide a roof over her head. i don't think the government have gone far enough when it comes to people like this. They should have capped child benefit at two children.

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  • kimmyp  |  January 09 2013, 2:08PM

    I don't know of anyone in the private sector who has had a pay rise in the last three years, most of the public sector have also had their pay frozen, in real terms a pay cut while a great many in the higher pay bracket have actually had a pay cut. We have had to adapt like everyone else and actually in some respects it's not been a bad thing, makes you more appreciative and focus on whats important and gives you a proper prospective on what is essential and what really is not. I do not see why this should not also apply to anyone on benefits. There is not a bottomless pit of money, it has to come from somewhere and I for one cannot give anymore in any kind of tax to subsidise anyone else. There are services we could do without if people would only be more responsible and take an interest in there local community but as always people want everything and want it for nothing. I heard a women in the hairdressers moaning about not being able to afford food for her family who then in the next breath told how she had just booked a holiday and the cost for her hair was £73.

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  • SidneyNuff  |  January 09 2013, 2:00PM

    The unemployed can count on a 3% pay rise over the next 3 years, can anyone with a job do that?

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  • SmartyC  |  January 09 2013, 1:40PM

    The big change that needs making to the benefits system is that we need to stop paying people to breed! At the moment, someone living entirely on benefits with a couple of kids can get housed, clothed, very well fed it seems in many cases, and indeed have enough left over for fags and a good night out or two if Torquay town centre is anything to go by. But the thing is, the more they breed, the more money they get, and the bigger house they're entitled to! Imagine going into work and telling the boss "I've had a baby, you have to pay me more and pay for a bigger house", you've be laughed out of his office. Yet that's exactly what happens for career benefit claimants. We NEED to get the system back to what it was supposed to be, a safety net for society, not a lifestyle choice. But most of all we need to stop encouraging those that abuse it as a lifestyle choice to breed more of the same. At the moment those in work often can't afford kids, whilst those playing the system can't afford not to. We've turned evolution on its head, and gone from survival of the fittest to survival of the fattest...

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