Councillors unite in opposition to welfare reforms after Paralympics

Planned changes to disability living allowance benefits have been attacked by members of Tower Hamlets council in the wake of the Paralympics.

Both Labour and Independent councillors have slammed the proposals - due to come into force in 2013 - under which there is to be a higher threshold for the payment of the benefit,

Tower Hamlets councillors are now suggesting the changes could result in as many as 1,200 claimants in the borough losing their benefits.

The Labour group’s spokesperson for health and wellbeing Cllr Rachel Saunders said: “The Paralympics have broken down many of the myths around disability and shown us the inspirational and extraordinary achievements that are possible when people with disabilities have opportunities to reach their potential.

“In 2012 we have seen a wonderful celebration of the achievements of disabled people. In 2013 the Government will cut their support to the bone leaving thousands without the help they rely upon.”

The council’s Independent cabinet has also been highly critical of the coalition’s reforms, and Mayor Lutfur Rahman echoed Cllr Saunders’ attack.

He said: “These proposals are a cynical ploy to place the burden of their financial mess on vulnerable residents who were not responsible for it, and who they think are an easy target. This is a disgrace.

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“No wonder George Osborne was booed at the Paralympics. They can smile and clap our Paralympians as much as they like, but now they are showing disabled people their true colours.”

However, a department of work and pensions spokeswoman rejected the claim that the changes could leave 1,200 people in the borough without benefits.

She added: “We are absolutely committed to supporting disabled people and continue to spend over �40bn a year on disabled people and their services.

“There are millions of pounds of underpayments and overpayments in the current system so it’s clear that people are not getting the right levels of support. That is why we are replacing DLA with a new benefit which will give more targeted support with a greater proportion getting the higher rates”.