Election 2015 Wales

Election 2015: Labour's 'one month to scrap bedroom tax'

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Media captionRachel Reeves says the nation shouldn't 'balance the books on the backs of the poor'

People have one month in which to scrap the so-called bedroom tax by voting Labour, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves has said.

Speaking at a food bank in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, she said it would be the "first thing" she would do in office.

Labour claims 70,000 more families in Wales could be hit by the penalty on housing benefit payments to people deemed to have surplus rooms.

The Conservatives said the changes were "restoring fairness" to the system.

'Trapped'

Ms Reeves said Labour would help people who were being unfairly penalised.

"The government's own numbers showed that in the first six months only 5% of people were able to move to smaller properties," she said.

"And in more rural areas there just aren't those smaller properties for people to move into.

"So people are trapped in their home paying the bedroom tax, forcing them in many cases into debt or into a food bank and it's not good enough.

"The first thing I will do if I'm secretary of state for work and pensions in a month's time is cancel the bedroom tax.

Image caption Rachel Reeves (right) met food bank volunteers in Barry

"We've got a month to cancel the bedroom tax and the people of Wales can deliver that."

Defending the welfare reforms, a Conservative spokesman said they were "restoring fairness to the system by bringing people in the social sector in line with those renting in the private sector".

"There are approaching one million extra rooms being paid for by housing benefit for working age social rented sector tenants, this is not affordable or acceptable when others are living in over-crowded accommodation."

'Humanity'

Plaid Cymru's Hywel Williams said: "The bedroom tax is a deplorable measure that has caused senseless suffering to some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and Plaid Cymru MPs voted against it from the very beginning and we have put forward positive proposals to limit its damaging effect.

"Labour MPs abstained on the second reading of the Welfare Reform Bill which brought in the bedroom tax."

Jenny Willott from the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives' Westminster coalition partners for the past five years, said her party had been "trying to reform the bedroom tax by introducing exemptions for disabled tenants who require an additional room, or anyone who can't find a smaller property".

UKIP Wales leader Nathan Gill said the party had always opposed the bedroom tax, claiming it was "petty, saves very little money for the taxpayer and is representative of the divisive politics being practiced by the political elite".

Wales Green Party leader Pippa Bartolotti said the Greens had "always been totally against the bedroom tax" and any government "with a shred of humanity" would abolish it.

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