Walsall Labour claim coalition ‘callous’ over benefits

Walsall Council’s Labour Group believe over 4000 households in the Walsall area will be hit by the government ‘bedroom’ tax – to be introduced in April – after Lib Dem and Tory councillors blocked their move to help the poorest families.

Of those homes 921 have a disabled person living in the property and – despite Government assurances – with the introduction of Universal Credit later this year pensioners will also be hit when one partner is still working.

An amendment to the authority’s annual budget would have increased cash for housing discretionary payments to people who will struggle with cuts of up to 25% in housing benefit from April.

But despite having already condemned the bedroom tax as ‘unjust’ during Thursday’s budget  meeting, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat council leadership, blocked an extra £750,000 a year for help with the bedroom tax and for adaptations to elderly people’s homes.

Deputy leader of the labour group, Councillor Sean Coughlan, described the move as ‘callous’.

Cllr Coughlan, who moved the amendment, said the changes in benefits system are forcing people on low incomes to pay for the Government’s economic crisis.

“Earlier in the meeting the Tories read out a list of how many households in Walsall would be affected by the introduction of the bedroom tax and admitted that even they didn’t support it.

“But then, in a pernicious piece of political hypocrisy, they voted down our amendment which would help those families and would have also increased cash for adaptations which allow elderly people to remain in their homes.

“Nearly £900,000 is needed to help the unemployed, low income families; pensioners and the disabled who will struggle to pay their rents because of this tax but Walsall Council’s leadership have only allocated £227,000. We argued the council should take £600,000 out of its £10 million reserves to bridge that gap and help those families.

“In effect, over 4000 homes will suffer because the Tories and their Lid Dem partners voted to support their government rather than the people of Walsall.”

He added: “This isn’t a case of scroungers but people, the majority who are working, being victimised by the Tories and Lib Dems because they are on low incomes.”