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Welfare reform has improved lives claims Iain Duncan Smith

Walsall | News | Published:

The architect of the controversial 'bedroom tax' has insisted low and middle earners have benefited from his welfare reforms.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith slashed millions from the welfare bill as the coalition government sought to balance the books.

But he claimed these savings, alongside the falling number of people claiming certain benefits, had allowed the coalition to introduce tax cuts for those on low pay.

From this month the tax-free personal allowance threshold on income tax increased to £10,600.

Speaking in Walsall, Mr Duncan Smith said: "What I have been doing now for a number of years is reforming welfare as a means to making more people better off.

"The reforms have not just saved tax payers money, including those on low and middle incomes, we have actually been able to give them tax cuts by raising the threshold on the personal allowance on income tax.

"We have been able to afford that because more people have got back into work as a result of our reforms."

Mr Duncan Smith, who led the Conservatives for two years during Tony Blair's New Labour government, was at Nova Training in Goscote where unemployed young people are taught skills to help them secure work.

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He was supporting Douglas Hansen-Luke, who is standing for the Tories in Walsall North, where Labour is defending a majority of 990 votes.

Centre manager Charlotte Fox told the minister the centre had helped 1,500 young people in the last year.

A group of around 20 users at the centre put questions to Mr Duncan Smith on issues ranging from support for young parents to what he was doing to encourage businesses to offer apprenticeships.

He told them being long-term unemployed was 'no life' and getting a job would open up their lives to opportunities.

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Looking ahead to after the election, Mr Duncan Smith said he had no intention of scaling back the 'bedroom tax' if the Tories win. The Conservatives call it the spare room subsidy. It removes 14 or 25 per cent of housing benefit from council or social housing tenants with one or more 'spare' rooms.

It has been heavily criticised by Labour who claim it hits disabled people hardest.

Mr Duncan Smith added: "Under the coalition government we have seen overcrowding fall for the first time. It is a terrible situation to live in overcrowded accommodation and it needs someone to speak for them.

"I don't know of Labour or anyone else who appears to be concerned about the level of overcrowding. I am concerned.

"The policy has also encouraged people to get into work. That is because often they make the decision they want to be able to pay the extra amount and stay put."

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