Zac Goldsmith dropped as patron of his local disability charity after voting for disability benefit cuts

The mayoral candidate backed cuts to ESA

Jon Stone
Thursday 17 March 2016 15:57 GMT
Zac Goldsmith is the Conservatives' mayoral candidate for the London elections
Zac Goldsmith is the Conservatives' mayoral candidate for the London elections (Getty Images)

The Conservative candidate for Mayor of London has been dropped as a patron of his local disability charity after voting for disability benefit cuts.

Zac Goldsmith was criticised by Richmond AID earlier this month when he backed slashing £30-a-week from disabled people claiming Employment Support Allowance – despite warnings from charities that the benefit already barely covers basic living costs.

The Daily Mirror newspaper now reports that the Richmond MP has been dropped as a patron of the charity – which provides support to disabled people in his constituency.

Lucy Byrne, the charity's chief executive, told the newspaper: “We are shocked and disappointed to find that both our local MPs here in the borough of Richmond voted for this cut, one of whom is patron of our organisation.

“Having voted for this brutal cut we believe that Zac Goldsmiths' position as patron is no longer tenable.”

The cuts Mr Goldsmith voted for apply to new claimants in the “work-related activity group” (WRAG) track of ESA from April 2017.

Mr Goldsmith’s party yesterday also confirmed it would go ahead with cuts to another disability benefit – Personal Independence Payment.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says the cut to people who use specially adapted equipment will affect 370,000 disabled people, who will each lose an average of £3,500 a year.

Disability charities have warned that the ESA cut will seriously impact disabled people, while the Government argues it will incentivise them to find work. It says the PIP cut will resolve a situation where too many people are getting support for adapted equipment.

Previous research by the Disability Benefits Consortium of 60+ charities suggests that 28 per cent of people on the current, higher ESA WRAG rate have been unable to afford to eat, while 38 per cent have been unable to heat their homes.

Figures reported by the Independent last week showed that more than half of people who appeal “fit to work” decisions by the DWP on their ESA are found to actually be too ill to work.

Protest outside Department of Work and Pensions

Owen Smith, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, argued Mr Goldsmith’s position on the disability cuts meant he was not an appropriate choice for Mayor of London.

“It is shocking that someone who wants to be Mayor of London voted to take £30 a week away from half a million disabled people - at a time when they are already struggling to make ends meet. Zac Goldsmith is not fit to be Mayor of London,” he said.

Mr Goldsmith is facing Labour candidate Sadiq Khan, Green Candidate Sian Berry, Liberal Democrat candidate Caroline Pidgeon, and Ukip candidate Peter Whittle, amongst others. The election will take place this May.

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