A councillor in South Holland’s poorest parish is seeking a meeting with MP John Hayes before the “bedroom tax” hits people already struggling on low incomes.
Sutton Bridge district and parish councillor Michael Booth spoke out after a national report revealed one in five children in his ward live below the breadline – and the Lincolnshire Free Press unveiled figures showing one in four primary school pupils at the village school has free meals.
Families on benefits who have one spare bedroom will see their housing benefit slashed by 14 per cent and by 25 per cent if they have two spare bedrooms.
South Holland District Council has already written to around 500 families it expects to be hit.
Agencies like the Agape Foodbank and Citizens Advice are predicting a “tsunami” of calls when bedroom tax and other benefits changes kick in on April 1.
Coun Booth told his parish council: “I read in the weekend newspaper a comment from one of our Government friends that the mansion tax would not work. If they don’t think the mansion tax would work, how the hell do they think they can tax the bottom end of the people?”
He is concerned about the rising number of food parcels going out from Long Sutton’s branch of the Agape Foodbank – which doubled to 90 in the first six weeks of this year compared to last – and also a lack of jobs in Sutton Bridge.
Details of the number of children living in poverty were revealed ward by ward across Britain by the End Child Poverty campaign.
Sutton Bridge has 22 per cent of its children living in poverty while St Paul’s Ward in Spalding has 21 per cent.
Agape Foodbank co-ordinator Irene Davies said her voluntary agency can only give out emergency parcels to those in crisis and referred by various agencies – it cannot plug the benefits gap and help people in need week in, week out.
She said: “Low income, benefits delays and cuts are the prime reasons for people needing food parcels with homelessness, sickness and debt as secondary reasons.
“With the massive changes to the welfare system that have already begun, benefit cuts, the bedroom tax and the introduction of Universal Credit in April, we believe the demands on our services will increase further still in 2013.
“Some of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society are facing even greater hardship this coming year and often people have nowhere to turn but to the foodbank.
“They say to us ‘what would we do if you weren’t here?’ Sometimes they weep as they tell us their stories and sometimes they cry with relief because they have found help.
“It is difficult to believe we are talking about Great Britain in 2013.”
South Holland District Council and the Citizens Advice Bureau are ready to help those affected by bedroom tax.
Claimants can contact the council on 01775 761161 and ask for the housing advice team or CAB on 08444 111444.
CAB strategic manager John Willoughby said there often isn’t smaller accommodation for people to move into, but it may be possible for some to let out a bedroom and generate income that way.