43,500 families hit by £1,300 cuts

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At least 43,500 families across Yorkshire will see their living standards squeezed by more than £1,000 a year following the Government’s controversial child benefit cuts which came into force this week.

New figures released by the Treasury reveal that HM Revenue and Customs has now sent out 43,520 letters to households across the Yorkshire region warning them that all or part of their child benefit payments are being withdrawn. Further letters will be sent out in the weeks to come.

Child benefit is being withdrawn on a sliding scale from families where one earner makes more than £50,000 a year as part of the Government’s sweeping welfare reform programme. Households with one earner on £60,000 or more will lose all their benefit – £1,752-a-year for two children.

However, a family with two earners each bringing in £49,000 will keep all its money.

An independent study recently concluded that the changes would hit those affected by an average of £1,300 per year.

Liam Byrne, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, told the Yorkshire Post: “This is another example of parents and working families paying for the Government’s failure to get Britain back to work.

“It is a big con to pretend it’s the feckless and the slackers that are being asked to foot the bill.”

The Government insists huge savings are needed from the country’s ballooning welfare budget in order to cut the deficit, however.

Prime Minister David Cameron said at the weekend that his Government’s welfare reform programme was “fundamentally fair”.

The child benefit changes are part of a package of measures agreed in last year’s Budget, but only came into force this week.

Last night a fiery debate was under way in the Commons over the coalition’s next round of welfare reforms, which will see benefit payment increases held down at below the rate of inflation for the next three years.

Labour says the majority of those affected will be low-paid workers who receive tax credits to supplement their incomes.

“This is a striver’s tax, pure and simple,” Mr Byrne told the Commons last night. “It is going to hit people on tax credits.

“We believe welfare to work will not work without jobs. This does not create a single job, it creates a heck of a mess and it asks Britain’s working families to clear it up.”

Labour’s attacks were supported by a number of backbench Liberal Democrats, who rebelled against the coalition over concerns about perceived unfairness to the poorest in society.

David Ward, the Lib Dem MP for Bradford East, attacked Mr Cameron’s insistence that it is fair to increase benefits by only one per cent a year because public sector workers are only receiving a one per cent pay increase.

“How on earth can you compare those on benefits with people who are in a job?” Mr Ward asked.

“Are we seriously suggesting that these people in employment would give up their jobs to be unemployed? Don’t be ridiculous. Most people who are employed, in my experience, look at people who are unemployed and think ‘Thank God it isn’t me.’”

But Julian Sturdy, the Conservative MP for York Outer, said the welfare system the Government had inherited from Labour was “simply unaffordable”, and that any suggestion the Government was attacking the needy was “nonsense”.

Alec Shelbrooke, the Conservative MP for Elmet and Rothwell in West Yorkshire, accused Labour MPs of “shameful political posturing” in their opposition to the Government’s welfare cuts.

“They’re only interested in trying to bribe the electorate and get back into power,” he said.