Local MP has called for the Government to amend the Welfare Reforms on bedroom tax which would hit thousands in Neath. The bedroom tax will see social housing tenants have their housing benefit slashed by £494 every year if they are ‘under-occupying’ their property which Neath MP Peter Hain claims will push people into poverty.
Mr Hain has criticised the Government plans for cutting the incomes of some of the poorest in society without solving the under-occupancy problem. It is estimated that 1,156 people in Neath would be affected.
“The implications of the Bedroom tax will be disastrous for a large number of people who are already struggling to make ends meet” said Mr Hain. “In Neath it is not a case of tenants needlessly under-occupying larger properties but a lack of available smaller properties and tenants should not be penalised because of a gap in the market.”
Mr Hain has written to the Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions urging a rethink.
“The current plans will simply lead to a cut in the incomes of some of the poorest people in the country and not solve under-occupancy at all. It would result in people being pushed into poverty through no fault of their own or out of social housing and into expensive private rented accommodation.”
Nearly two hundred Neath households with children could lose around £4,000 a year from this April following a change to tax credit rules being introduced by the Government, a move Neath MP Peter Hain has said will make life harder for parents struggling to make ends meet.
Mr Hain is urging the Conservative-led government to reconsider a little noticed change to tax credit rules which means thousands of families will lose all their working tax credits unless they can significantly increase their working hours.
The change means that couples with children earning less than around £17,700 will need to increase the number of hours they work from a minimum of 16 to 24 hours per week or they will lose all their working tax credit of £3,870 per year.
Government figures have revealed that 185 households in Neath including 365 children could lose out. Across Wales 9,380 households with 18,985 children will be affected.
Mr Hain said, “This is a tax credits bombshell and it’s just around the corner. With ten people chasing every vacancy in the area and many employers cutting people’s hours how does this government expect people to increase their working hours?”
A recent survey by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development found that one in five organisations have cut back on the number of hours that people work as a result of the economic downturn, with just 6 per cent increasing them.
Thousands of elderly Neath residents will struggle with heating this winter as cuts are made to the Winter Fuel Allowance. Neath MP Peter Hain has been contact by constituents who have had their 2011 payment and found that it is substantially less than last year.
“Pensioners have been lied to. They were told that their Winter Fuel payments would not be touched but are finding themselves anywhere between £50 and £100 short from last year.” Said Mr Hain, “With the cost of living going up and the rising cost of fuel, pensioners are struggling to make ends meet and are faced with the impossible decision of choosing to heat their homes or eat.”
Last winter 12,870 households in the Neath constituency are set to receive Winter Fuel Allowance with 2,580 people over the age of eighty receiving the higher £400 payment.
“Despite a pre-election promise to safeguard the payments the Tory led government are trying to get away with it on a technicality by cutting the extra ‘top-up’ payments but it still doesn’t take away from the fact that with rising price pensioners are receiving less help.”
Mr Hain also criticised the Government for not doing enough to reduce energy bills. Energy prices are up twenty percent this year whilst energy companies continue to see their profits soar.
“When in opposition this government talked the talk but are not walking the walk in power instead telling consumers to shop around for lower tariffs. The Government’s message of ‘check, switch, insulate, save’ is galling and an insult to pensioner who have seen their Winter Fuel payments cut and to families working hard as prices rocket.”
Welfare changes will see thousands moved off incapacity benefits with few job opportunities for them, research claims. Peter Hain MP has raised concerns over the impact it will have on Neath constituents on incapacity benefits claiming it would lead to ‘hard times with few employment opportunities’.
The report “Tackling Worklessness In Wales” by Professor Steve Fothergill and Christina Beatty suggests changes to the welfare system will see 60,000 people in Wales moved off incapacity benefits with half of those with no job to go to.
Neath Port Talbot has the third highest rate of Working Age Benefit Claimants in Wales with 21.9% of the working age population in the authority claiming benefits. Only Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent have a higher rate in Wales. In the Neath constituency there are over six thousand claiming incapacity benefits with over five thousand one hundred of those claiming for over a year.
Mr Hain said, “This is a very worrying report highlighting the problems of getting people back into work. Last month’s figures showed there were eleven people chasing every vacancy in Neath – that is the reality facing the unemployed. Getting people off benefits is one thing but if there are no jobs for them to go into then they are facing a very unsure financial future.”
The report suggests that in Wales changes to the Welfare system would result in “widespread financial hardship rather than a reduction in worklessness” and the private sector “has a mountain to climb to deliver new jobs on the scale that is needed.”
The Tory-Lib Dem cuts are disproportionally affecting women In Neath and surrounding Valleys as they are asked to bear more than seventy percent of the cuts. Shadow Secretary of State for Wales and Neath MP has called the figures “damaging for the progress of the next generation of women.”
Independent research shows men on average will lose £4.20 a week, but women on average will lose £8.80 a week – despite the fact that women still earn less than men. Cuts to child tax credit, childcare tax credit, child benefit all hit mothers hardest. This combined with lower public sector, Carers Allowance payments, cuts to housing benefit and the rise in VAT, this Tory Government propped up by the Lib Dems is just throwing more hurdles in the way of women.
“Women play a vital role in the workplace and at home.” Said Mr Hain “Women have already achieved so much, there is still so much to do but this unfair attack will, I fear, not only halt the progress already made but set it back years. It is likely that their life chances and independence will suffer because of this government’s assault on women and families.”