Nick Clegg hopes Sheffield people will ‘welcome’ his party’s call for reform of the bedroom tax – a shock shift that has come under fire.
Around 6,000 people across Sheffield have had their benefits slashed and some have been forced from their homes after rules on spare rooms for social tenants changed.
Liberal Democrats voted for the reform but now want only those who turn down suitable smaller homes to see a reduction, and disabled adults to be exempt, after a report showed almost 60 per cent of households affected were in arrears.
Many people were forced to cut back on essentials such as food.
The shift has led Labour members nationally and locally to criticise the Deputy PM, accusing him of ‘ hypocrisy’ over the U-turn.
The Sheffield Hallam MP said:“I hope most Sheffielders would welcome the fact the Liberal Democrats will push to reform the spare room subsidy to make it fairer.
“At the moment we have Conservatives saying let’s just carry on despite the evidence and we have Labour sticking its head in the sand saying there’s no problem with the rising costs of housing benefit, when there clearly is.
“Liberal Democrats are the only ones committed to tackling the problem in the fairest way possible.”
Coun Harry Harpham, cabinet member for homes at Sheffield Council, said the tax should be abolished.
He added: “We believe this eleventh hour intervention is nothing more than a cynical stunt 10 months before the election and the people of Sheffield will see straight through it. “Playing cynical politics with such a serious issue just shows the Lib Dems are treating people with contempt.”
Oliver Coppard, Labour candidate for Mr Clegg’s seat next year, said 1,708 people were affected in Hallam and it was ‘too late’ for many.
“If he didn’t know 1,700 people were being hit in his backyard he wasn’t doing his job, and if he did, why hasn’t he acted sooner?”