Government decision to cap benefits comes under fire

GOVERNMENT plans to cap benefit payments at a lower rate than the rising cost of living have come under attack from Stroud's Labour and Green parties.

The Coalition's proposal to no longer increase unemployment benefits and working tax credits in line with inflation and instead limit rises to one per cent a year from April 2013 provoked a fiery debate in the House of Commons earlier this month, which has now been reignited at a grassroots level.

On the national stage, work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has argued the three-year cap is necessary to reduce the country's deficit but Labour has opposed it on the grounds that it will result in a real-terms cut in the income of millions of working families.

Across the country more people in work than out of work will be affected by the cap and research carried out by the Labour Party shows that 6,300 in-work families in the Stroud district will be among those hit.

"The chancellor has said it is the shirkers, the people with the curtains drawn, who are affected by his cut to tax credits and benefits but we know this is not the truth," said Steve Lydon, chairman of Stroud Labour Party.

"It's clear from new figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies that seven million working households will lose an average of £165 a year."

But Stroud MP Neil Carmichael defended the bill saying it was all about 'fairness'.

The Tory politician said benefit payments had increased by 20 per cent since 2007, while wages had only gone up by 10 per cent over the same period.

He said vulnerable groups, such as the disabled and pensioners, would not be affected by the cap and that the latter would get a substantial increase in their pensions year on year compared to the 'humiliating' deal they got under Gordon Brown.

But members of Stroud Green Party have also voiced their opposition to the welfare benefits up-rating bill, which went before a House of Commons select committee on Monday, January 21.

Anna Bonallack, who is standing as the Green Party's candidate for Painswick in May's county council elections, said the government was increasingly trying to 'scapegoat and stigmatise' benefits claimants.

She said: "The Government's critical focus on the unemployed is unjust and in my view entirely intentional since it distracts attention from the real cheats, the tax avoiding corporations and super rich individuals, who they are unwilling or unable to tackle."

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