A RADICAL overhaul of Britain’s benefit system will ‘devastate’ the poorest families in Burton, some of the town’s most senior Labour Party figures have claimed.
They hit out as Tory and Liberal Democrat ministers prepared to introduce a raft of changes in a bid to slash the welfare bill and encourage people to find work.
Dennis Fletcher, Labour’s longest serving representative on East Staffordshire Borough Council, summed up the party’s fury about the proposals, telling the Mail: “Either they don’t understand or they just don’t care what devastation these latest measures will cause.”
The focus of Labour’s ire is the ‘bedroom tax’, under which those deemed to have more bedrooms than they needwill have their housing benefit cut.
Those judged to have one more room than they need will lose £13 per week, while those said to have two or more rooms will have £22 per week cut from their payments.
Labour claims 650 low-income non-pensioner households in Burton and Uttoxeter will lose out.
Ian North, who represents the Winshill ward with Councillor Fletcher on the council, said: “The bedroom tax is brutal and deeply divisive and yet another example of the punitive nature of the coalition’s policies – hitting the poorest hardest.”
Jon Wheale, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Burton, claimed Government figures showed almost two-thirds of those who would be affected by the tax were disabled.
He said: “The tax is unworkable and unfair – and it’s shocking it will be introduced in the same month David Cameron is cutting taxes for millionaires by almost £100,000.”
Penny Perry, who is standing for Labour in the Burton Tower division in the forthcoming elections for Staffordshire County Councils, said the changes would hit those already struggling with rises in food and fuel and council cuts.
However, the coalition has insisted the welfare reforms are ‘badly needed’ and will make work pay for the first time, ‘helping lift people out of worklessness and the endless cycle of benefits’.
The say those who need help will continue to receive it following changes fair to claimants and taxpayers.
Last week, Burton Tory MP Andrew Griffiths cited benefit reform to illustrate what he said was Labour’s failure to learn the lessons from its profligate past.