‘Prove it’ - housing estate rep calls for Woodford Green MP to follow through on “£53 a week” benefit claim

MP Iain Duncan Smith

MP Iain Duncan Smith - Credit: Archant

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith should follow up on his claim that he could live on £53 a week according to a community representative on a Woodford Green housing estate.

Jim Brennan outside the Liston Way block

Jim Brennan outside the Liston Way block - Credit: Archant

The MP for Chingford and Woodford Green is overhauling Britain’s welfare system and the first changes, including the introduction of the controversial bedroom tax, came into effect on Monday.

The Tory MP was told on BBC Radio Four on Monday of a market trader called David Bennett who said he now has to live on £53 a week after his benefits were cut.

In response, Mr Duncan Smith said he could live on that amount “if I had to”.

An online petition, branded a “complete stunt” by the MP, has called on him to “prove his claim” and has been signed by more than 370,000 people.

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It was echoed by Jim Brennan, 66, a resident of the Orchard Estate in Broadmead Road.

Mr Brennan, a community representative for the estate’s Liston Way block, said: “I think it’s ridiculous.

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“He ought to try and live on it. You’ve got your gas, your electric and God knows what else.”

Under the welfare reforms, council tax benefit funding in Redbridge will be cut by 10 per cent; welfare benefits and tax credits won’t rise in line with inflation, and housing benefit and unemployment claimants deemed to have one spare bedroom in social housing will lose 14 per cent of their housing benefit.

Stephen Garrett, 56, a resident on the estate who receives Jobseeker’s Allowance, set to be incorporated into a universal credit, said he didn’t know if his benefits will be reduced.

He said: “If it does get cut, it could mess me up.”

But Mr Duncan Smith said he knows “what it’s like to live on the breadline” after twice being unemployed.

He said: “[The petition] distracts attention from the welfare reforms which are much more important and which I have been working hard to get done.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We are making it a lot clearer for people that if they step off benefits into work it will pay.”

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