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Bradford MPs reject Northern ‘benefits cap’ idea
A call by shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne for a lower ‘benefits cap’ in the north to reflect much lower rents than across the south is not logical, according to some MPs in Bradford.
Mr Byrne, said yesterday he backed the principle of a limit on benefits – a key Coalition policy – but described its implementation as “clumsy and politicised”.
Instead, he called for an independent panel of ‘wise experts’ to decide how much lower the cap should be in areas such as Bradford compared with London.
Mr Byrne said: “Everybody knows that one cap for the whole of Britain would be pumped up a bit by the very, very high levels of rent and housing benefit that you see in London.
“We’ve said, ‘Look, come on, think about this carefully. It would make much more sense to have a different cap in different parts of the country and let’s try and take the politics out of that a bit.’ Let’s get an independent panel of wise experts who can look at this and say what is the right level in different parts of the country, so that – no matter where you live – you are better off in work.”
But Philip Davies (Con, Shipley) said: “It seems bizarre to me that the party that argued against regional pay seems to be arguing for regional benefits. There’s no logic to it.
“I firmly believe the benefits cap is far too high. At £26,000 it’s about the same as the average wage in this country. You can’t have a situation where someone on benefits is better off than their neighbour who goes out to work.
“That sticks in people’s throats. Of course there has to be a safety net for people but the only change that’s needed here is to make the benefits cap lower.”
David Ward (Lib Dem, Bradford East) said: “There seems to be a bit of an inconsistency here with his view on regional pay. As far as the group of wise people who would dictate the cap for different parts of the country is concerned – I find that a very odd idea, it would not be accepted as fair.”
The Government’s £26,000 cap on all benefits will come into force next April across the whole of the UK.
But, because by far the biggest handout is housing benefit – and because rents are far lower in the North – the majority of affected households are in London.
When Labour first floated the idea of a ‘local benefits cap’, a Tory minister suggested it would also be logical to introduce lower jobseeker’s allowance and income support in the North.
Mr Byrne also conceded that Labour would have to slash welfare spending if it won in 2015, because of the “dog’s breakfast” it would inherit.