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MP warns of ‘more hardship’ under benefit cap trial

Steve Reed. Pic: cllrstevereed.wordpress.com

Steve Reed. Pic: cllrstevereed.wordpress.com

Croydon families face more hardship as a result of the Government’s benefit cap, a local Labour MP has warned, ahead of the trial due to start in the area next month.

Steve Reed,  Labour MP for Croydon North told Eastlondonlines that although “capping benefits is fine” setting the cap at the same level nationally was unfair. The Government’s £500 per week benefit cap that will be rolled out in Croydon and three other London boroughs on a trial basis from April 15.

The Department of Work and Pensions predicts that the cap will affect 900 households in Croydon, 500 of which live in Reed’s Croydon North constituency. Across the borough it is expected that around 300 families will lose over £100 per week.

Reed said: “The cap that the Tory-led Government has introduced is set at the same level in London as it is in Blackpool, Swansea or Sunderland despite living costs in the capital being far higher than elsewhere.

“The Government has decided to experiment on people in Croydon by piloting their plans in our area first. I am very afraid that will result in yet more hardship for many families in Croydon.”

The residents of Croydon will also be hit by the ‘bedroom tax’ next month whereby housing benefit recipients stand to lose £12 per week for every spare room they have.

His comments contrast with the more aggressive opposition to benefit changes voiced by Jules Pipe, the Labour Mayor of Hackney and Chair of London Councils, during a public meeting on Tuesday night in Stoke Newington.

Talking about the changes which will come into effect throughout 2013, Pipe said: “Normally, a Tory Government in this much chaos would be welcomed by me, but not this time.

“We’re not talking about tens of people [in Hackney], or hundreds: we are talking about thousands being affected.”

Croydon will be one of four benefit cap trail boroughs along with Bromley, Haringey and Enfield. For the remainder of the UK, including Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Lewisham, the changes will be rolled out in the summer. The bedroom tax will be implemented nationally in April.

The cap will be applied through council housing benefit payments and will be the combined figure received through allowances such as housing benefit, child benefit, child tax credit, jobseeker’s allowance and income support.

Carer’s allowance, incapacity benefit and severe disablement allowance will also be included in the cap.

Gavin Barwell, Conservative MP for Croydon Central said: “I strongly support the introduction of a cap on benefits. It was outrageous that under Labour some out-of-work families could receive more than £100,000 a year in benefits.

“Labour used to be the party of the working man. Today they support families on benefits having higher incomes than those of us who work for a living.”

Housing charity Shelter has said that “some families will face exceptional hardship” as a result of the cap.

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: “The household benefit cap policy is built on a foundation of myths, but the 210,000 children affected [nationally] will face harsh realities of severe poverty and homelessness.

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