If you found that ten of thousands of your fellow citizens were facing severe cuts in their living standards –surely you’d want to do something to help.
Since the announcement of the changes to the benefits system, Lambeth council has been working very hard to uncover the full extent of the impact on our residents. With up to 1 in 6 local people set to be affected by cuts and noting that the Institute for Fiscal Studies calculates that “households with children to lose most from tax and benefit changes in coming year” I thought we had a clear duty to warn residents about the impact of the cuts.
So we drew up plans for a campaign to tell people what was coming and what they could do to minimise impact on themselves and their families. We designed large advertising posters that have been placed across the borough, information posters delivered to schools, children’s centres, GP surgeries. We also organised a series of advice events including the first ever Lambeth Family Finance Fair to be held on 9th March 2013 and sent direct mail letters sent to affected residents affected by the various benefit changes.
Eric Pickles has condemned our campaign as ‘political’ despite his government constantly telling us that we are all in it together and that the new council tax benefit scheme is a form of localism. These bullying tactics will not deter us from helping our residents to understand what is happening to them. The facts are.
- Council Tax Benefit is being scrapped – 20,758 Lambeth households will be hit by the reductions in financial support.
- Disability Living Allowance is being abolished – 9,000 people in Lambeth will be affected
- Housing Benefit criteria is being changed in relation to the number of occupied bedrooms in a property – that affects 4,000 Lambeth households.
- A new Cap on Housing Benefit is being introduced later in the year – 667 Lambeth households most of them families will be affected. The average shortfall is £94 per week.
- London has the highest percentage (25.5%) of households receiving Housing Benefit of any region in the country
- Lambeth has 2nd highest number of Housing Benefit claimants in London and the 4th highest number of council tax benefit claimants
- Lambeth has the highest number of Job Seekers in London.
It is shameful that Eric Pickles and his Conservative colleagues have tried to pin the label ‘shirkers’ on the thousands of people concerned – despite the fact that most of the people affected are either working, retired or disabled.
Lambeth are running an information campaign to ensure that no one is unaware of the huge benefit cuts that will be in place in only a few weeks time. The government could do the same.
Lib Peck is Leader of Lambeth Council