‘A missed opportunity’

HARTLEPOOL MP Iain Wright has labelled controversial welfare reforms as a “missed opportunity” for unemployed people in Hartlepool.

Peers ended their stand-off with the House of Commons which has paved the way for the Welfare Reform Bill to reach the statute book.

The legislation brings in a £26,000-a-year household benefits cap and sets up the universal credit.

Prime Minister David Cameron has hailed it as “a historic step in the biggest welfare revolution in over 60 years”.

But town MP Iain Wright said there is nothing in the reforms to help unemployed people get back into work.

Mr Wright said: “The big issue that is affecting Hartlepool is the lack of employment. The lack of employment and real support from the Government to help people into work.

“There is nothing in the Bill to allow people to do that.

“It is a huge missed opportunity to tackle the problem facing the town.”

It comes after the Hartlepool Mail launched its Work in Progress campaign to highlight the plight of joblessin the town and help people find jobs.

Mr Wright added that some of the reforms were “mean-spirited and petty” and attacked the most vulnerable.

He said he was not sure what impact the £26,000-a-year benefits cap would have on people in Hartlepool.

He has previously said that the reforms hurt people with cancer, people who look after disabled children and “hardworking families who are trying to do the right thing”.

Mr Wright said some will have £1,400 a year taken off them in help and support.

But Mr Cameron said he believed the reforms will change lives for the better.

He added: “Past Governments have talked about reform, while watching the benefits bill sky-rocket and generations languish on the dole and dependency.

“This Government is delivering it.

“Our new law will mark the end of the culture that said a life on benefits was an acceptable alternative to work.”

The Bill had a stormy passage through the Lords, with peers inflicting seven defeats on the Government when the legislation was first considered and a further one after MPs had overturned all the setbacks. It will now be sent for Royal Assent.