Liberal Democrat delegates have raised fears about the impact of spending cuts on disabled people, and have criticised the language used by the coalition government in attacking “benefit cheats”.
They were debating a motion – approved overwhelmingly by party members – that warned that “the poor, the young and the vulnerable have historically suffered during periods of austerity”.
Lib Dem MP Bob Russell told the conference in Liverpool: “I don’t accept that cuts are fair. [That is] a contradiction in terms.
“Welfare cheats are not people we can support but the language used is bringing in people who are in genuine need, who are in genuine fear of where the axe is going [to fall].”
After he managed to force the chancellor, George Osborne, to come to the Commons to make a statement – following reports that he wanted to cut an extra £4 billion from the welfare budget – Russell said he had received emails from across the country, including some from disabled people.
One disabled woman was so scared by the language around cuts to welfare spending that she was “contemplating suicide”, he told the conference.
Lib Dem delegate Tim Starkey said there were fears about the impact of possible cuts to spending on employment and support allowance – following reports based on a leaked letter written by the chancellor in June – on disabled people.
Fellow delegate Robert Donald called for more support for disabled people, while another party member described the chancellor’s comments that living on benefits was a “lifestyle” choice as “simply contemptible”.
21 September 2010