Austerity Benefit Cuts 'Targeting Most Deprived Areas', Labour Report Finds

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DEPRIVED AREAS
Some of the UK's most deprived areas will suffer most | Alamy

The government's welfare reforms will see as much as £850 taken away from individual residents in some of the most deprived areas of the country, Labour research has uncovered.

The party has accused the coalition of protecting affluent parts of the country whilst targeting areas already struggling to cope with the recession for the deepest cuts in benefits, tax credits and council services.

The north of England and inner-city parts of London are taking the brunt of cuts, with an average of £566 in cuts to welfare and local government for every person in the North-East, £511 in the capital and £508 in the North-West, compared to just £292 in the South-East outside London and £324 in the East of England.

The worst-hit area, Knowsley in Merseyside, sees a total loss of £850 per head - £515 per head in welfare cuts and £336 in local government cuts - according to Labour's figures.

A study by Sheffield Hallam University last month found Liverpool's economic growth would be set back two and a half years as a result of the welfare reforms. They said the changes would cost Merseyside as a whole £847m.


James Robinson
Knowsley has been worst hit by the government cuts! About time the 100 percent labour run council put up a fight!

In contrast, the least-hit area, Mole Valley - which covers the towns of Dorking and Leatherhead and surrounding villages in Surrey - loses £182 per head, made up of £164 in welfare reductions and £18 in local government cuts.

The list of 10 local authority areas hardest hit by the cuts includes seven out of the eight most disadvantaged parts of the country, according to the government's own deprivation index.

Knowsley, which ranks fifth in the index, is followed by Westminster (87th in the index, losing £824 per head), then Hackney in east London (second in the deprivation index, £821), Liverpool (first, £817), Blackpool (sixth, £792), Hartlepool (24th, £724), Manchester (fourth, £715), Newham in east London (third, £710) and Middlesbrough (eighth, £696).

Mole Valley is 310th out of 326 in the deprivation index, and the other areas on which the cuts are having least impact are equally well-off.

Second least-affected is Waverley in Surrey (321st on the index, losing £187 a head), Wokingham in Berkshire (325th, £189), Hart in Hampshire (326th, £194) and Elmbridge in Surrey (320th, £196).

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On Saturday the bishop of Nottingham and Southall spoke of his "deep concern" over plans to change the benefits system, warning they will push more children into poverty and saying that "children suffering now creates very long term problems for us all."

In April a United Nations organisation said children's prospects in Britain were worse than most of their European neighbours, and the present government's austerity policies are making the situation even more dire.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said: "The Tories are zeroing in on areas in need and hitting them hard - twice.

"Communities facing the biggest hit to local government are also losing most from cuts to their tax credits and benefits, yet instead of helping working families the Tories are giving millionaires a tax cut. That tells you everything you need to know about this government's priorities."

According to Labour's figures, based on independent research conducted by Sheffield Hallam University and Newcastle City Council, the overall loss per head from welfare and local government cuts is £566 in the North-East, £511 in London, £508 in the North-West, £421 in Yorkshire and the Humber, £388 in the West Midlands, £364 in the East Midlands, £334 in the South-West, £324 in the East of England and £292 in the South-East.

Conservative Party vice-chairman Bob Neill said: "This government is saving taxpayers' money - we have cut income tax for the low-paid, frozen council tax for hard-working families and pensioners, and are reforming welfare to back those who do the right thing and want to get on.

"Our welfare reforms will help people back to work, which will benefit the economy far more than the Labour alternative of simply abandoning people to claim benefits year after year.

"Labour have opposed every single saving in local government, despite the fact that Alistair Darling was planning £52 billion of cuts before the election. Labour's only solution now is to tax more and borrow more, which would mean soaring tax bills on hard-working people."