D-day for benefits claimants as unions go for the jugular


David Cameron’s government is the “nastiest” in British history, the leader of the TUC claimed today, as the country’s poorest families brace themselves for sweeping benefit cuts which take effect this month.

Frances O’Grady ratcheted up the political rhetoric against the Coalition with an attack on the “ideological” and  “right-wing” policies of austerity. Her comments follow increasingly vociferous criticism of the Government’s welfare reforms by churches, charities and the Labour Party.

From tomorrow, people in social housing with a spare room lose a proportion of housing benefit – 14 per cent for those with one room and 25 per cent for those with more, costing families an average of £14 a week. In addition to this much-criticised “bedroom tax”, changes to housing benefit, council tax benefit and disability living allowance could cost poorer households up to £25 a week. A cap on benefits of £500 a week for any one household could cost a family £93 a week, according to an analysis by the Child Poverty Action Group.

Meanwhile, new figures indicate that the “bedroom tax” may fail in its stated aim of encouraging people in larger council homes to downsize to smaller properties. Labour said Freedom of Information responses showed local councils had one and two-bedroom properties to house only one in 20 of those families with spare rooms.

Responses from 37 authorities across Britain revealed 96,041 households faced losing benefit but there were only 3,688 smaller homes available. The shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne said: “These shocking new figures reveal the big lie behind this Government’s cruel bedroom tax.”

The Government hopes it will encourage some of the 660,000 people affected to move and thus free up accommodation, as well as save the taxpayer £500m.

The National Housing Federation says the reform will fail to solve overcrowding and could increase the welfare bill with tenants moving into the more expensive private sector. Islington council in north London has pledged not to evict its tenants who run up arrears because of the bedroom tax as it says there is no accommodation for them to move into and the alternative of moving them to the private sector will cost more.

Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “Families already struggling with rising living costs face another body blow as a potentially devastating package of benefit cuts is introduced. Spending cuts that increase child poverty will cost society more in the long run. The Government is on course to leave behind the worst child poverty record of any government for a generation.”

Ms O’Grady, speaking at the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers’ conference in Bournemouth, said: “[The Government] is cutting its way into a triple-dip recession, shrinking public services we all rely on and attacking benefits with the low-paid, women and children hit the hardest. This is the most ideological, right-wing and plain nastiest government Britain has ever seen.”

She said the crisis was not caused “by teachers having gold-plated pensions or because teachers sit around the staff room awarding each other obscene bonuses, living the life of Riley and putting down bets with other people’s money”.

“It was a crisis caused by the greed of bankers, by growing inequality and falling living standards propped up by unsustainable debt and by too much economic power being concentrated in the hands of too few,” she added.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959
voicesWard committed no crime, and the truth is still being covered up, writes Geoffrey Robertson QC
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas