URGENT action from home needed today
p/s A sample message – Please halt the cuts. Cuts will cause further institutionalisation, homelessness and deaths for disabled people and others in poverty. This is false economy, unwise and unkind. Season’s greetings.
A backbench Liberal Democrat MP will cast the crucial vote tomorrow when MPs get a chance to pass judgment on the coalition’s fraught housing benefit package.
Changes to the benefit have been criticised by many, including senior Lib Dem MPs who fear moves to lower rental support, or local housing allowance, too fast will make many families homeless.
The government had resisted attempts to bring the proposal to a vote in the Commons, pointing out that changes to benefits do not ordinarily require votes.
But after the leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband, and the shadow welfare spokesman, Douglas Alexander, tabled a motion contesting the measures, the government set up a special committee to pronounce on the policies.
Now the composition of the committee raises a slim possibility of a defeat. Its eight Conservatives and two Lib Dems gives the government a lead over the seven Labour MPs and one Ulster Unionist, Ian Paisley, expected to vote against. But Labour have been pinning their hopes on one of the two Lib Dems, Stephen Lloyd, MP for Eastbourne, choosing to vote against.
But last night, Lloyd said he supported the “direction of travel in housing benefit changes” and would back the policy.
The other Lib Dem, Steve Webb, is bound by ministerial responsibility to support the package. Lloyd is under pressure from the opposition and charities who believe the vote to be the last opportunity to stop the policy.
A Labour source argued that senior Lib Dems such as Simon Hughes and Bob Russell who were concerned by the proposal had a chance to persuade Lloyd to force the government to reconsider. We’re not saying the whole thing should be called off – there are elements in the package we support – but the changes to the level of support for rent people will get, or the 30th percentile, will cause great churn and higher levels of homelessness. It’s a genuine opportunity for Lib Dems to show they know this.”
Labour’s courting of Lloyd comes after it emerged at the weekend that the party’s director of policy, Greg Beales, had written to members of the shadow cabinet banning them from using the word “coalition” to describe the government, because the term was too reasonable and failed to convey the government’s “ideological, rightwing agenda”. Instead they are to refer to the “Conservative-led government”, with Clegg unable to affect the direction of coalition policy.
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