Thursday, 17 February 2011

Lib Dems win key changes to Welfare Reform Bill

More evidence today of Liberal Democrat influence in Government with the news that Nick Clegg blocked plans to cut Housing Benefit for people who have been unemployed for more than one year.

This is a really welcome development and I am certain it would not have been brought about had it not been for Liberal Democrat MPs in the Coalition.

The original plan was unduly punitive and I was concerned about the impact it could have on people living in Reading already struggling to find a job.

Last year I blogged my thoughts about housing and  planned reforms to benefits. It's worth remembering that Labour also planned to reform Housing Benefit - it was in their manifesto.

I hope the reforms announced today will be an improvement on the broken welfare system which traps too many people in poverty.

As Lead Member for Housing I will be keeping a close eye on the impact of any changes to benefits and ensuring the Council is doing all it can to support people who find themselves on hard times or in housing need.

Lib Dem Minister for Pensions Steve Webb MP explains over on Lib Dem Voice argues that the new Bill is a 'radical improvement' on the current framework for benefits:

"Universal Credit will be flexible and dynamic, taking into the account the month-by-month changes every person experiences. This will be in marked contrast to the fiendishly complex tax credits system where people faced recovery of overpayments years after they received the cash. In all, this new system will lift 950,000 people – including 300,000 children – out of poverty and 2.7m households will be better off as a result."

I really hope he is right - we'll have to wait and see.

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