Benefit cuts will leave town poorer

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The poorest people in Dewsbury will be thousands of pounds worse off each year once radical changes to benefits are put in place

People on low incomes who claim housing benefit to pay for private rented accommodation will see their payments cut over the next two years as government policies are rolled out.

General rates are already being cut for 162 households in Dewsbury, meaning residents in those homes will collectively get £1,523.70 less a week, adding up to a total of £79,232.40 over a year.

From 2013, housing benefit claimants will also get financial penalties for having empty bedrooms.

This will cost 331 Dewsbury households £4,075.03 per week, or £211,901.56 each year.

The government plans were explained to councillors and local residents at a meeting of Kirklees Council’s Dewsbury Area Committee at Longcauseway Church on Tuesday.

Coun Darren O’Donovan (Lab, Dews West) said: “This is the third time I have sat and looked at this, and every time I get more frustrated by what the government are doing, because it’s the people living in our streets that are going to be affected by it.”

Families will also have the total amount of benefits they receive capped at £26,000.

Julian Hobson from the council’s revenue and benefits service said: “The families who get more than £26,000 at the moment are the families with lots of children and if that cap is imposed, those children are going to lose out.”

He said that compared to other areas in Kirklees, Dewsbury residents were not seeing the biggest benefit cuts, but said the town did have a higher proportion of people who would be penalised for having empty bedrooms.

Coun Khizar Iqbal (Con, Dews South) said: “I can understand the principle of why reform is necessary. It’s the timing that’s going to create the problems.

“We all know the problems nationally because the country is going through one of its worst times historically.”

Coun Paul Kane (Lab, Dews East) said: “This is like going back to the 1920s and 1930s. It’s absolutely disgusting and I’m sorry for being political.”

Young people living on their own will also lose out, as those aged under 35 will be paid a lower rate of housing benefit, which currently is only paid to under-25s.

At the moment, housing benefit recipients whose rent is lower than the amount of benefit they are entitled to, can get up to £15 of the surplus, but that will be scrapped.

Over the next three years, housing benefit deductions for people living with adult dependants who they do not claim benefits for will also be increased.

l For more on the planned changes to benefits, see next week’s Reporter.