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Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood says hitting the vulnerable with benefit cuts is 'unacceptable'

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: December 11, 2012

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HITTING the most vulnerable with benefit cuts is 'unacceptable', according to Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood.

The Lib Democrat's critical comments put him on collision course with the Tory-led Coalition Government, although he stopped short of saying he would vote against the measures, pointing out it could threaten securing concessions in the face of 'wilder' Conservative ideas.

Mr Horwood is to speak to party colleagues to decide how to respond to the controversial plans.

His remarks come after the Chancellor announced a £3.7 billion squeeze on welfare in his autumn statement.

As part of a package of measures, George Osborne will legislate to break the traditional inflation link, which earlier this year saw benefits increased by 5.2 per cent.

The Chancellor argued this was not 'fair' at a time when most people's salaries are rising much more slowly.

Increases in most working-age benefits – including Job Seekers' Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance and Income Support, as well as elements of Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit – will be capped at one per cent over the coming years, although benefits for disabled people and carers will continue to rise in line with inflation.

The Liberal Democrats had claimed success in securing a number of concessions, including preventing a freeze on benefit rates, but Mr Horwood remained concerned.

He said: "I think it's quite unacceptable to be hitting the most vulnerable people in the country in this time of austerity."

But it was not simply a case of rebelling as this could impact on securing compromises.

He said: "Our negotiating position within the Coalition becomes weaker if we simply vote against it anyway."

"We are going to need to talk about how we respond to this idea."

Earlier, in a BBC radio interview, Mr Horwood said: "I'm not happy about the welfare cuts at all.

"I suppose the consolation we can take from this is that we stopped some of the wilder Conservative ideas about having no increase in benefits at all, about under 25s losing housing benefits, about people being penalised if they're on benefits and have more than two kids and so on and all that has been stopped.

"But I must admit, the remaining real-terms cut in benefits is a very painful thing to swallow and it's a difficult thing for us to swallow politically, but much more difficult for people to cope with who are actually struggling to live on a very small amount of money each week."

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  • wlozinska  |  December 12 2012, 9:09PM

    TIMONLINE 2012 Those too ill to work do NOT get DLA, unless they are also very disabled. If they can walk 200yds, cook and wash themselves they don't qualify. Instead, they get ESA, which is very difficult to obtain as ATOS class people as being FIT for work when they are NOT. About 70 people a week are dying before their appeals can be heard, so that shows just how fit they really are! The assessment rate is £71/wk, if they're allowed ESA they get £95/wk if they're expected to be well enough to work in 6months time, otherwise it's £105/wk, which is still well below the poverty line making it extremely difficult to survive long-term for those with incurable and progressive illnesses. The stress of the system alone is making people more ill and hampering their recovery.

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  • TIMONLINE2010  |  December 12 2012, 10:26AM

    coingrass - are you being ironic? Is £770/month a month not enough to live on after housing costs? DLA is not means tested as it's there to provision for your adapted lifestyle, not just your lack of income. Surely those who are too ill to work receive disability allowance? Most pensioners have earned their pensions through years of Ni contributions. I do think we could cut our foreign aid budget though as much foreign aid goes to countries whose governments could and should be supported their own people.

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  • wildman  |  December 12 2012, 10:07AM

    I've said it before and I'll say it agian, £billions could be saved if we cut our foreign aid and developement funds, already over the years by succesive Governments £trillions has been given away recently announced this Government have stopped money going to Rwanda £21billion. Whilst I will agree some countries do need money there is no reason why countries like China, India or even Russia should get our money. As previous comments on this post point out the majority of people on benefits are low paid workers, how is cutting their benefit any help? the lowest paid people on benefits are carers who are expected to be available to provide care 24/7 for under £60 a week, yes carers allowance is classed as a benefit even though its a job. Job seekers, if they cant prove they are actively seeking work then they should lose their benefits.

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  • elgoog  |  December 12 2012, 9:22AM

    http://tinyurl.com/cka76gm HITTING the most vulnerable with benefit cuts is 'unacceptable', according to Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood. but he is reluctant vote to vote against it !!

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  • wlozinska  |  December 12 2012, 12:04AM

    The bulk of welfare benefits go to pensioners but the government won't reduce these as they're afraid of losing voters!!

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  • wlozinska  |  December 11 2012, 11:33PM

    They're allowing a 3% increase in line with inflation for people claiming DLA (Disability Living Allowance), which is NOT means tested, so quite well off people can get this. However they are restricting increases to ESA (Employment Support Allowance) to 1%, which goes to people who are too ill to work and IS means tested, so people getting this are already impoverished. This is NOT fair.

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  • Coingrass  |  December 11 2012, 9:52PM

    A single mother with two children in a 2-bed council flat gets each month: £444 housing benefit £430 child tax credits £180 single parent benefit £132 child benefit £ 80 council tax benefit £ 24 food vouchers for a total of £1290 a month or £15,480 a year. Clearly no room for cuts here - she's practically on the bread-line.

  • DG9999  |  December 11 2012, 8:28PM

    Don't tell us-tell your boss-and suggest he gets out of the unholy alliance with the nasty party-if you dare! (Which I doubt)

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  • TIMONLINE2010  |  December 11 2012, 7:49PM

    Of course people who have worked and contributed are entitled to and deserved of benefits but many haven never really worked. Either way I think that people should do something to 'earn' their benefit in the longer term, particularly if they haven't made a contribution through tax. Obviously vocational training is the ideal but if not available surely any useful work is better than the alternative? I'm not sure about people working for multinationals for 'free' but there are plenty of charities and civic needs.

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  • Richardburton  |  December 11 2012, 7:33PM

    Interesting article and as usual a few people who seems to think that the people on benefit are getting something for nothing a lot of us have worked and payed into the system and lived on very little to bring our children up and now are unemployed. With reference to doing voluntary work,i think you will find that answer in the work programe,that is anyone unemployed for a year gets to go to work for the multinationals for free and of course so called charity's. Many people wouldn't mind doing work for nothing if they had a choice i and many others will not shop at these shops and not give items or shop in charity shops that use free labour because of policy's that made people like us unemployed. Give us training and a chance in the job market,not some useless shelf filling as punishment for being unemployed.

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