Conservatives in Sunderland have backed the Government’s new lowered benefits cap, saying it will help more Wearsiders into work.
City councillor Robert Oliver argues that the implemented proposals are helping to reduce the number of people claiming “key out of work benefits since 2010”.
His comments come just days after Labour councillor Graeme Miller said that the cap would have a “devastating impact” on the city’s most vulnerable families.
The lower overall benefit cap, which came into effect on Monday, limits the total amount of benefits a North East household can receive to £20,000 a year.
It will affect more than 5,000 families across the region, the Chartered Institute of Housing has warned.
Coun Oliver said: “The cap of £20,000 a year in benefits per family is equivalent to a salary of £25,000 which is above the average for the city and many people in Sunderland will go to work every day and earn less than some families on benefits who do not work and do not pay income tax.
“Some families may still take home more than £20,000 in benefits as some disability payments are exempt and with more than £90billion being spent a year on working-age benefits in the country, it is hard to accept the complaints about unfairness.
“Welfare is supposed to offer people temporary help in times of need but it should never become a way of life or trap people who would like to work into dependency on benefits by giving them more in welfare than they can earn in a job.
“The Labour Party failed to help workless families when it was in power, the number nearly doubling in thirteen years, and is now out of touch with public opinion, the vast majority of which sees a welfare cap of £20,000 as fair.
“Since the first welfare cap was introduced 16,000 workless households in the UK have moved into work and with employment increasing by 68,303 in the North East since 2010 now is the right time to help families into work.
“It is essential that more people in Sunderland move from welfare to work so that they and other residents in the city can enjoy the economic benefits as well as better health and wellbeing that goes with a job.
“Welfare reform is already having a positive effect on the city with a fall of 4.382 in the number of people claiming the key out of work benefits since 2010 and a near halving of benefit claimants in the Sunderland Central constituency.”
Coun Miller however, who is portfolio holder for health, housing and adult services, last week argued: “This is going to hit some of the most vulnerable families in our city particularly hard at a time when they are already struggling to cope.
“We’re doing our best to support families affected by the Government’s benefits cap by giving them advice on managing their money and what they can do to increase their income but there’s no doubt in my mind that this is going to have a devastating impact on those affected which could even result in some families losing their homes.”