Welfare reforms 'will create crisis for poor'
WELFARE reforms will create a crisis unlike anything seen since the Great Depression, says council leader Tudor Evans.
"Welfare reforms are taking money away from the poorest in the community," he said. "We are about to see a crisis that we haven't seen since the 1930s.
"It's far deeper and wider than the recession of the 1980s.
"It is an assault on the vulnerable. The council is going to be a strength and a shield to these people."
But Cllr Vivien Pengelly, the Conservative group leader on the council, said welfare payments would be fairer after the reforms.
Cllr Evans was speaking at a cross-party meeting set up to scrutinise next year's Plymouth City Council budget.
The council is seeking to cut more than £17million from its day-to-day spending at a time when the Government is planning an overhaul of the welfare system.
"Government policy that is demonising these people is an outrage and an affront to the post-war consensus," Cllr Evans said.
There were fears that civil unrest was being deliberately stoked.
He said 160 Plymouth families would have their housing benefit capped and another 2,000 would see housing benefit cut because of changes to the room rate.
And 16,500 working families which now get some or all of their council tax paid would have to pay more.
The council had seen a 41 per cent increase in the number of housing advice requests up to June last year.
In March last year there were 117 families in temporary homes, with 19 of those in bed and breakfast accommodation.
This had been reduced to 78, with two in B&B accommodation.
Tracey Lee, the council chief executive, said: "Welfare reform is the biggest risk this city faces because of the size and complexity of the changes.
"We will have more residents required to pay council tax and less money to administer it.
"Housing benefit changes will bring significant pressure on families on top of everything else.
"We are trying to support families and individuals in the best way we can, but it's not going to be easy.
"There are going to be vulnerable families and working families who will have less money.
"One of the biggest concerns is child poverty."
Last year there were reported to be about 10,000 children living in poverty in Plymouth.
Cllr Pengelly said later: "People who need and deserve benefits will get them.
"There have been complaints in the past about people on benefits buying plasma TVs and designer clothes. A lot of people who work jolly hard don't think that's a fair system.
"The reforms are going to help by cutting out that sort of thing and give help more to people who do need it.
"The ones who are really suffering are the police, health services and the fire service, but I don't think the man in the street is finding it as tough as I would have expected."
Pensions shake-up – Page 8