By Kaye Wiggins at Lambeth Town Hall
Lambeth council has passed a motion that says it is “extremely concerned”
about the government’s proposed changes to the welfare system and believes
the reforms will be a “very real threat to many Lambeth residents.”
The motion, passed at a full council meeting at Lambeth town hall,
Brixton, last night, says the it is “particularly concerned about a
rise in homelessness” that it believes may result from cuts to housing
benefit. It says the council has set up a Tenancy Rescue Service to try to
prevent people from becoming homeless.
“Council calls on the Tory-Lib Dem coalition to recognise the difficult
situations that many hard working families are already facing,” the motion
“Council also calls on the government to apply some discretion to ensure
that we do not unintentionally punish certain groups by applying ill
thought out blanket rules to all,” it says.
The council last night rejected an amendment by the Liberal Democrat
councillor Peter Truesdale, which said: “This council supports the policy
aim that people should be better off in work than on benefits.”
During a debate on the motion at the meeting, Labour councillor Lib Peck
said cuts to housing benefit, which started to take effect last year, were
“a frightening glimpse of what’s around the corner” when the government’s
other planned welfare reforms may start to take effect.
Peck said at the meeting: “we need to get angry about this. Really angry.”
Labour councillor Neeraj Patil also criticised the government’s
proposed welfare reforms, saying, “the idea of capping benefits is unfair
and will push a lot of children into poverty. In principle I agree that
welfare reform is required, but I oppose this government’s reforms as they
will affect the weaker sections of society, especially children.”
Opposition councillors, however, said the welfare reforms were needed
because it was important to “make work pay”. They also said the Labour
party’s shadow chancellor Ed Balls had made it clear that he could not
reverse spending cuts made by the coalition government.
The Conservative councillor John Whelan said there was “a lot in the
coalition government’s plans that will benefit the people of Lambeth.”
The Liberal Democrat councillor Daphne Marchant said her party had “made
positive changes for the finances of people on low incomes” since the
coalition government was formed. She said these included restoring the link
between pensions and earnings and raising the threshold below which low
earners do not pay income tax.
Also at the meeting, council leader Steve Reed criticised the Localism Act,
which the government passed in November. He said the new law was “an
exercise in legislative deception by a government that has centralisation
and unfairness running through it.” He also said the law contained more
than 100 new powers that central government could hold over local councils.