Opinion Former Article

NHF: One in five Liberal Democrat voters set to desert party over government’s welfare reform programme

One in five Liberal Democrat voters set to desert party over government’s welfare reform programme – according to poll

The Liberal Democrats are facing a substantial loss in their support because of the Government’s controversial plans to slash welfare payments – with 20% of those who voted for the party in 2010 saying they are less likely to back them at the next election, according to a new opinion poll.

Under the Government’s welfare reform programme, housing benefit would be slashed for those in the private rented sector, and substantially cutback for those social housing tenants deemed to be under-occupying their homes. The Government is also proposing to introduce an overall benefits cap of around £26,000 for each family per year.

It is believed that combined cuts programme could affect up to one million people with many of them being at risk of being forced into poverty and possibly losing their homes.

The proposed cuts have already caused widespread concern among Liberal Democrat backbenchers, with many expressing opposition to the proposals in the House of Commons. In February, the Government had to drop its proposal to cut housing benefit for those who have been unemployed for more than a year from the Welfare Reform Bill, after opposition from the Liberal Democrats and housing groups, such as the National Housing Federation.

According to the poll of 1,259 Liberal Democrat voters in 2010 across Britain:

· 20% said they were less likely to vote for the party at the next election as a result of welfare reform

· 45% said the welfare reform programme does not reflect the principles and values of the party

· 51% said the party was not listening to its supporters on welfare reform

· 61% said the Liberal Democrats had been too easily led by its coalition partners on the issue

· 49% said the Government does not care what impact the housing benefit cuts will have on the people who rely on them.

On the matter of the Government’s specific proposal to cut housing benefit for the 670,000 tenants deemed by ministers to be under-occupying their social homes:

· 57% of Liberal Democrat supporters at the last election said that people with disabilities should be exempted

· While 58% said that foster carers should be exempted.

It is believed that under the proposed housing benefit cuts for those social housing tenants who are deemed to be under-occupying their homes around 450,000 of those who would see their benefits cut would be people with disabilities.

Federation chief executive David Orr said: “Half of Liberal Democrat supporters at the last election simply feel that the drive to slash benefit payments does not reflect the party’s long-held and cherished principles and the majority feel the party is being too easily led by its coalition partners.”

He added: “I would urge the party leadership to reconsider its unswerving support for the programme of slashing welfare support – and to stand up for what its 2010 supporters believe in.

“The Government has long said that as it drives through its austerity programme it will look after the most vulnerable in society. This is a promise that people who voted for the Liberal Democrats at the last election want the Government to honour.”

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,259 Liberal Democrat voters in the 2010 General Election. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th - 21st July 2011. The survey was carried out online.

Nick Foley
Media Relations Manager
National Housing Federation
Direct Line: 0207 067 1028/ 07748 931286

Visit the Federation's website at: housing.org.uk

The National Housing Federation represents 1,300 not-for-profit housing associations. Collectively, our members provide two million homes and community services for five million people. www.housing.org.uk

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