Councillors call on government re-think

Councillors Angie Wilcox (left), Stephen Akers-Belcher and Marjorie James posting a letter to Government ministers
Councillors Angie Wilcox (left), Stephen Akers-Belcher and Marjorie James posting a letter to Government ministers

ANGRY councillors have called for a Government re-think over controversial changes to Working Tax Credit which they say will impact on hundreds of families.

Labour councillors Stephen Akers-Belcher, Marjorie James and Angie Wilcox say 674 Hartlepool families are set to lose up to £4,000 a year – or £75 per week – when the changes come in from April.

The Government has changed the rules so that couples with children will be required to work at least 24 hours a week to qualify, up from the current 16 hours.

As a result, the three councillors have now posted a letter to Chancellor George Osborne and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith calling on the Government to re-think the “damaging” policy.

But the Government says the figures ignore a range of other measures being introduced to help families.

The letter said: “We are writing to ask you to reconsider the decision to increase the worked hours required by couples in order to qualify for Working Tax Credit.

“To ask local employers to increase the hours available to an employee by, in some cases, as much as 50 per cent, is just not achievable in the current economic climate.

“The consequences of failing to achieve the increase in hours is that families will lose almost £4,000 per annum (£75 a week).”

Speaking to the Hartlepool Mail, Coun James said: “This tax credits bombshell is now just a few weeks away.

“For many families here in Hartlepool it means going out to work won’t pay and they’ll be better off on benefits.

“That makes no economic sense at all. The Government urgently needs to think again.

“This will result in at least 1,500 Hartlepool children being pushed further into the poverty trap and could remove over £2.6m from the local economy.”

They have also aired their concerns to Hartlepool MP Iain Wright.

Government officials say the changes, aimed at saving more than £2bn by 2016, were first announced by the Chancellor at the spending review in October 2010.

A spokesman for the Treasury said: “These figures ignore a range of other measures being taken to help working families.

“The Chancellor has confirmed that working age benefits will go up by 5.2 per cent in April and the child element of the Child Tax Credit will increase by inflation from April, which could mean up to £135 extra per child.

“We also know that families are worried about the cost of living and so we’ve cut fuel duty and frozen council tax.

“Families will also benefit from the increases in the personal allowance.

“When it is introduced, the Universal Credit will give nearly three million households a higher level of entitlement and enable more parents to get into work by helping 80,000 families with child care support.”