Responding to the Westminster Coalition’s plans to limit annual increases in working-age benefits to 1% for the next three years, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said:
“For years now, we have witnessed the demonisation of the unemployed and low income families. This has seen renewed vigour since the Tories and their coalition partners have been in power in London.
“To punish those who are unemployed when there are no jobs is nothing short of cruel. In the Rhondda, where I was born and still live, there are 21 people chasing every Job Centre vacancy. Are they all skivers? Of course they are not.
“In our recent budget negotiations with the Welsh Government, Plaid Cymru has demonstrated with concrete action where our priorities lie. We want to see all effort going into improving the economy and creating jobs.
“Plaid Cymru’s negotiations have secured thousands of new apprenticeship places over the next two years in a deal worth £40 million. That is not the limit of our ambition – it is just the start. Our aim is to create a thriving economy – one that leaves no one behind.
“Westminster Governments, regardless of who is in power, are unwilling to match our ambition. They should therefore hand over control of the major economic levers so that we can bring about the improvements Wales so desperately needs.”
Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams said:
“Wales will be hit particularly hard by these changes to working-age benefits. Incomes in Wales are substantially lower than elsewhere. Gross value added per head in Wales is £15,696, whereas in the UK it is £21,368—a difference of more than £5,500 per person.
Some 6.8% of households in the south-east of England, for example, claim working tax credits. In Wales, that figure is 7.1%. In Gwynedd—my own area—9,200 families are on tax credits of some form out of 53,000 households. That is 17.5% of the population—nearly three times the Welsh rate.
“Any cuts to in-work benefits for the low-paid will hit Wales and my constituency particularly hard.
People on low incomes tend to spend locally and to spend all their money. The Welsh economy is overwhelmingly made up of small businesses.
“Working tax credit reductions will suck demand out of local economies and make matters even more difficult for small businesses struggling to survive in the recession.”
He added: “Wales needs proper job-creating levers to improve our economy, not just handouts and certainly not workfare. We want full and early implementation of part 1 of the Silk commission proposals. We also want the transfer of responsibility for Jobcentre Plus to the Welsh Government.
“There are answers to joblessness and dependence on benefits. At present, we in Wales look in vain to London and the London parties for those answers.”