Saffron Walden and Braintree MPs vote for cuts in disability benefits

Sir Alan Haselhurst, Conservative MP for Saffron Walden.

Sir Alan Haselhurst, Conservative MP for Saffron Walden. - Credit: Archant

Both of the area’s MPs voted for disability benefits to be cut forcing a charity to ask one to step down as patron.

Sir Alan Haselhurst, for Saffron Walden, and James Cleverly, MP for Braintree, were among 311 MPs who voted to cut the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) from £103 a week to £73.

This has been a controversial clause of the Government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill, which was fiercely opposed in the House of Lords, and charities say the cut will make it even harder for disabled people to find work and afford food.

As a result, Advocacy for All, which helps vulnerable people make their voice heard, asked Mr Cleverly to give up his patronage.

A spokesman for the MP said he had been planning to leave anyway and he had voted for the sake of the economy.

Vivienne Lester, chief executive officer of Advocacy for All, said: “This will have a profound and detrimental affect on the lives of disabled people and the quality of their lives.

“It could leave them isolated and disconnected from the rest of the community.

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“As the patron of a charity for disabled people, we would have expected James Cleverly to have consulted our members and clients to get their views on the difference these cuts will make to their daily lives.

“We have invited Mr Cleverly to meet the trustees to explain how he reached his decision.”

Mr Cleverly said: “Clearly I’m disappointed that the trustees wish me to stand down as patron and I will of course respect their wishes.

“There has been a huge amount of misrepresentation of the Government’s proposal and online bullying of charities with Conservative MPs as patrons and I hope that the charity has not been swayed by either.

“The changes to ESA will only come into effect in 2017 and then only for new claimants. No one currently receiving ESA will be financially disadvantaged. Indeed, none of Advocacy for All’s clients will be worse off because of these changes.”

Sir Alan said anyone in difficulty should come to him and he would “fight for them vigorously”.

He added: “If anyone finds themselves worse off and they can show that they are incapable of work, I will fight for them vigorously.

“The money has been moved so instead of just giving people cash and leaving them to stew, we will spend it positively to see what work they can do.”