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OVER TO YOU: Esther McVey answers our readers' questions
1:44pm Tuesday 29th October 2013 in News
Employment Minister and Wirral West MP Esther Mcvey agreed to be first in the Globe’s new feature, Over To You, where we invite readers to send in questions to prominent local figures.
Here are your question and the responses from Ms McVey, who was recently promoted from minister for disabled people to employment minister.
From T Miles.
Q) How has the Government’s austerity measures affected your standard of living?
A) “It's been a tough few years. The recession has taken its toll on everyone; from business to benefit claimant, public sector to private sector worker and I'm no different - the public sector pay freeze applied to MPs as well as everyone else.
Labour badly mismanaged the country's finances and that was exacerbated by a financial crash for which we are all paying - we are just coming out of the worst recession in peacetime history. All of us are having to dig our way out of this situation, and clearly people's incomes are not keeping pace with prices.
Government is doing what it can to support families from; reducing tax bills (worth on average £700 per year by increasing personal allowance), scrapping the planned fuel duty rise (worth approx £120 per family), keeping interest rates steady protecting those with mortgages and loans, as well as supporting those out of work, by introducing the biggest ever welfare to work programme.
So far this programme has helped over one million people into work, that's a million more people with a wage.
"It is a mammoth task getting the country back on its feet and it won't happen overnight and it can't be done without pain.
So it is a tough time for us all, but with the signs of growth and the increase in job numbers we are heading in the right direction.”
From: Lindsey Gaskin Dodd.
Q) I am concerned over the lack of disabled- / pram-friendly access at Meols Railway Station on the West Kirby bound platform.
Is there anything you can do to help?
A) “I fully agree that this is a ludicrous situation. It is an issue I have raised and will continue to raise. In this instance the matter rests with the Train Operating Company, Merseyrail Electrics and Network Rail who are responsible for the station.
Railway stations should be accessible to all and the Government does provide ring fenced funding to make more stations accessible for people with disabilities.”
From Graham Maxwell.
Q) Are you proud to be part of a Government that introduced a spare room tax can cut benefits to the disabled but goes to court to argue against capping bankers’ bonuses?
A) “Let me explain why and how this decision was taken. Firstly there are nearly two million people on housing waiting lists waiting for a home, many disabled, many families or single parents.
And there are also a quarter of a million families living in overcrowded accommodation, again many disabled, and yet there are also one million spare rooms in social housing. Added to that social houses have not been built at anywhere near the levels needed to satisfy demand for over a decade and during a decade when Labour let two million extra people into the UK.
So just by looking at some of these issues you can begin to understand the dilemma the UK is facing.
Added to that the Labour party when in Government allowed the housing bill to spiral from £12 Billion to £24 Billion, and in 2008 THEY introduced LHA - the same system of counting bedrooms and over occupancy for people on housing benefit renting in the private sector, meaning we currently have two systems running parallel, which is unfair and unworkable.
So we as a government had to take a decision - a tough one I acknowledge - on how to mend this unaffordable, broken, dual housing system we had inherited.
At the same time as removing this spare room subsidy, we are giving local authorities £190m to support vulnerable claimants get the help they need during the welfare reforms.
Finally, it is this Government who introduced a 'banking levy' ensuring bankers are paying more tax than ever before and have done since 2010."
From J Hallmark.
Q) Have you any view on concerns recently expressed in the Globe over Wirral Council’s budget options to implement parking charges in Wirral’s Country Parks?
A) “I have already made my views known to Wirral Council’s chief executive about this latest proposed Labour budget option which will be really damaging to Wirral and will only serve to drive visitors away from our beautiful parks and open spaces.
Added to this, I will continue to oppose the increases that have already been introduced. Such increases are punitive and short sighted, hurting local people and businesses, and drive people away from our local economy.”
From Jacqui Maxwell.
Q) Regarding the changes to public sector pensions and increased contributions, should MPs have set an example and reform their own pensions first to prove we really are all in it together?
A) “As it stands, in 2012 the House of Commons passed a unanimous motion inviting IPSA (the new independent authority in charge of MP's pay and expenses) to increase pension contributions from MPs.
This saw MPs’ contribution rates increased by 1.86 per cent in April 2012 so that most MPs’ now contribute up to 13.75 per cent to their pensions which is higher than virtually anyone in the public sector.
In 2010, at the start of this parliament, Ministers' salaries were reduced by 5%, and as well as that, will remain frozen for 5 years.
IPSA has been charged with reducing the cost of MPs. In fact the Conservative Party wanted to reduce the number of MP's from 650 to 600, which Labour and the Liberal Democrats voted against in Parliament earlier this year.
Now, instead, IPSA is conducting a full review of MPs’ remuneration, evaluating it, seeing how MP's pay sits with comparable jobs in the public sector.
If anyone wishes to submit comments as part of this review they can do so on the IPSA Website: www.parliamentarystandards.org.uk the review will be completed by the end of 2013.”
From Chris Lord.
Q) David Cameron declared in the Conservative Party Conference that action will be taken to force under 25s not in employment, education or training into some productive activity, or at least to report to a Job Centre once a week.
This Government has been in power since May 2010: why have you not taken action long before now?
A) “This Government has taken significant action since 2010, introducing the biggest ever welfare to work scheme which has helped more than one million extra people into work since the election.
Employment levels are now at a record high and unemployment has reduced in every part of the country, and all of this has been achieved on the back of one of the worst ever financial crashes. The 'Help to Work' scheme to which you refer is for all long term unemployed (not just under-25s). The scheme is aimed at those who have been through the work programme but still require further employment support.
Given that we are only just seeing the first work programme leavers it makes sense that we would only introduce such a scheme now.
Equally this government has put in place significant support for under-25s including the £1bn youth contract offering wage subsidies for employers to take on a young employee; working with business to offer work experience places - over 50% of whom go on to get a full time job - and increasing support through apprenticeships, and over half a million apprenticeships were started last year.
These are just some of the measures that have been put in place since 2010 and which are now showing results as youth unemployment begins to fall.”
Q) Could you please help? I'm a disabled person on high rate disability. I applied for a discretionary housing payment, to help me cover the short fall in the bedroom tax. I filled out an income and expenditure form, which came out with a negative amount of money left.
The DHP office told me that my DLA was taken into account, and I should use that. But in other cases, in other council departments etc DLA is not included in with your finances. My request for DHP was therefore rejected! I am struggling to pay the "bedroom tax" Please help!
A) “Discretionary Housing Payments have been given to councils to help people like you - and the amount the Government gives for that has been trebled.
I don't know your exact circumstances so I can only give general information and support.
First of all pensioners are exempt from the spare room subsidy, I don't know how old you are so not sure if that's of use, secondly, should you need an overnight carer you'd be allowed an extra room and should you have aids and adaptations to your home you would be prioritised for support.
Given the support has been trebled and local councils have known about these changes for three years, it is deeply sad that so little preparation has been done.
Finally, disability benefits are disregarded when calculating housing benefit entitlement, and where that income is clearly earmarked for care and mobility costs local authorities should disregard it in DHP applications.
If you need further help or advice with this matter please contact my office firstname.lastname@example.org”
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