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Hundreds of families hit by new 'cap' on benefits
Hundreds of Bradford families have been stripped of some welfare benefits after they were found to be receiving more than most people in the district earn at work, it has been revealed.
The Government’s flagship benefit cap, which limits the total amount any working-age household can claim, came into force last summer.
Shipley MP Philip Davies is now calling for the rules to be tightened further, branding the amount some people had been getting in benefits a “scandal”.
The new maximum overall payout is £26,000 a year for a couple, or a single parent with children – the equivalent of a pre-tax salary of £35,000.
There is a lower cap of £18,200 for single people, the equivalent of a pre-tax income of more than £23,000.
In Bradford, the average salary for someone in full-time work is £22,204, according to Bradford Council figures.
A new report by the Council reveals that about 300 households in the district had so far been hit by the new cap, losing an average of £56 a week, or £2,912 a year.
It also suggests the claimants had a higher-than-average need, as the affected households had an average of five children.
Conservative MP Mr Davies welcomed the change, saying: “Iain Duncan-Smith should be congratulated for making sure people can’t receive more than £26,000 a year in benefits.
“I find that offensive and most people who work hard and are not taking home anywhere near that amount would find it offensive.”
He said he would like to see the cap reduced still further, to less than £20,000.
When asked about the number of larger families affected, Mr Davies said: “People are having children they can’t afford. As far as I’m concerned, people should be able to have as many children as they like, but they should be able to support them themselves.”
Gerry Sutcliffe, Labour MP for Bradford South, said he agreed with the principle of a benefit cap, but accused the Government of “seeking to demonise people on benefits”.
He said: “Tough decisions need to be taken to get the benefits bill down. Labour agrees that there should be a localised benefit cap which takes into account differing housing costs around the country.
“But our first priority would be to get the welfare budget down by getting people back into work. The biggest problem is not that the level of benefits is too high, but that the level of people on benefits is too high.
“While seeking to demonise people on benefits, the Government is giving a tax cut to millionaires and doing nothing to stop the scandal of bankers’ bonuses – the very people who got us into this mess in the first place.”
David Ward, Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East, said it would be “difficult to argue against” the idea of the benefit cap, which he said had attracted support across the whole of Parliament.
He said: “There have been a number of welfare reforms and changes which I believe have been harsh and I have not supported – the bedroom tax and others – but I think the general public view on the overall benefit cap has been supportive. It’s not something the Labour party has ever opposed and I think the general feeling is that there has to be some level of capping.”
Kris Hopkins, Conservative MP for Keighley, said the benefit cap was designed to make sure work paid, and was linked to the average national wage of £26,000.
He said: “It is notable that the average wage in Bradford district is some way short of this, but the benefit levels are not affected.
“Additionally, those in need of particular support have been exempt from the cap, including disabled people and individuals who are in work and receive Working Tax Credit.”
George Galloway, Respect MP for Bradford West, said the figures showed that the poor were being hardest hit.
He said: “The poor are further impoverished while the Government sanctions 200 per cent bonuses on lavish salaries at the bank it owns, RBS.
“It is no cliche that under this Con-Dem Goverment the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”
The report on welfare reform will go before the Council’s Governanace and Audit Committee on Friday.
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