Benefit cuts are 'popular', argues Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps
Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps has made a fierce defence of the Government's controversial welfare reforms, arguing ministers want to ensure work is always more attractive than a life on benefits.
Mr Shapps also suggested polling of voters indicated cuts to benefits were "popular". The Government argues the bill for state hand-outs has spiralled out of control, and has introduced measures including cutting housing benefit and introducing a welfare payments cap.
The senior Tory MP, in Devon and Cornwall to back Conservative candidates for the 2015 general election, told the Western Morning News: "I've seen the figures and welfare reform is popular in Cornwall – everyone agrees that it pays to go out and get a job. We want to support people that want to get on. Do you think it's right that someone should be better off on benefits? The majority work hard. The Government is working very hard to put things right."
The Department for Work and Pensions also defended the crackdown following a report by Sheffield Hallam academics that said £19 billion would be taken from the economy from the measures, including £514 million in Devon and Cornwall.
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A Government spokesman said: "Around nine out of ten working households will be better off by on average almost £300 a year as a result of changes to the tax and welfare system this month.
"By raising the personal allowance to £10,000, we will have lifted 2.7 million people out of income tax since 2010. Our welfare reforms, including reassessing people on incapacity benefit, will help people back into work – which will benefit the economy more than simply abandoning them to claim benefits year after year.
"These changes are essential to keep the benefits bill sustainable, so that we can continue to support people when they need it most across the UK."
But Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter and former South West minister, said: "The tragedy is most of the people hit are in work struggling to pay the bills and feed their families. We have a higher proportion of people on low pay in the Westcountry than elsewhere.
"People on low pay are also more likely to spend than the better off, so by clobbering people on modest and low incomes to give a tax cut to millionaires who live mainly in London and the South East, the Government is doing the opposite of what our economy needs."