Council expects surge in calls about benefit cuts
THE city council is preparing for a surge in enquiries from concerned residents when the Government's benefit cuts come into force in April.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) claims that reforming the welfare system will help more people into work and support the most vulnerable in society.
But Labour-run Plymouth City Council says it expects the changes to impact on about 20 per cent of the city's residents, as benefits are capped and more people of working age are required to pay council tax.
The authority says it is preparing for a "large surge" in phone calls, email enquiries and visits, creating longer response times, and is urging people to use its website to find out more.
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Councillor Mark Lowry, member for finance, said: "It's not a secret that we do not agree with the changes the Government are making to the benefits system, but it's happening and we will do everything we can to support our residents.
"The next few months are going to be very stressful and concerning for many as they realise how these changes are going to affect them.
"Frustrations will be heightened as demand and queue times to speak with our advisors increases.
"Therefore, we encourage as many people as possible to use the website to help answer their questions.
"We will also be holding a series of information sessions where advisors will be on hand to answer specific questions about the welfare reform, and we will announce these soon."
The changes, which are part of the Government's 'welfare reform agenda', will include the abolition of council tax benefit, expected to hit more than 16,000 working-age claimants.
Continued reforms to housing benefit will see more than 6,000 Plymouth residents lose an average of £12 a week, while a family in a three-bedroom house could lose up to £24 a week.
A new 'bedroom tax' means tenants of working age in social housing will have their housing benefit capped, so they will be penalised if they have any spare bedrooms.
Conservative councillors argue that the Government is doing the right thing in reforming the welfare system, blaming Labour for over-spending when the party was in power.
More information about the changes is available on the city council's website or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.