Zac Goldsmith steps down as Richmond disability charity patron over support of ‘brutal’ benefit cuts

Zac Goldsmith has resigned as patron of a Richmond disability charity after voting for disability cuts, as the chancellor George Osborne announced £4bn will be slashed from disability benefits.

The Conservative Mayoral candidate resigned as patron of Richmond AID yesterday after voting in favour of cutting the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) by more than £30 per week.

Richmond AID Chief Executive Lucy Byrne said: “We are shocked and disappointed to find that both our local MPs here in the borough of Richmond voted for this cut.

“Zac’s decision is a complete conflict with our social model and ethos and having voted for this brutal cut we believe that Zac Goldsmith’s position as patron is no longer tenable.”

The disability charity blasted their patron Zac Goldsmith on Wednesday last week as the MP and mayoral candidate voted in favour of sharp disability benefit cuts.

Mr Goldsmith voted to reduce the ESA by almost 30% from £102.15 per week to £73.10, the change will be implemented from April 2017.

This amounts to a cut per person of £1,500 a year, some people are set to lose up to £3,500 a year in the latest funding shakeup.

There has been a huge backlash over the announcement, with Education Secretary Nicky Morgan fumbling over the issue and appearing to renege on the cuts, saying they were ‘a suggestion’ when questioned on BBC’s Question Time last night.

Mr Goldsmith was a patron of charity Richmond AID, a Teddington-based group who support disabled people in the surrounding area, including help with benefit claims, employment and training.

Ms Byrne said: “The cuts will have a severe and detrimental impact on the lives of disabled people and will make it more difficult for disabled people to find work.”

She pointed out that being a disabled person tends to mean higher living expenses, such as higher travel expenses, and that these cuts will force them to travel to fewer interviews.

Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, wants to cut the ESA for sick and disabled people by £30.05 a week to the same level as jobseeker’s allowance and claims the reduction will encourage disabled people to look for work.

The change applies if the claimant is considered fit enough for ‘work-related activity’, meaning that although not currently capable of working, they are considered capable of attending activities such as work interviews and training.

Half a million people are in the ‘work-related activity’ group, the cuts will only affect new claimants and claimants who make no claims for over 12 weeks.

All Conservative MPs in and near SW London voted for the ESA cut, including:

Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park)

Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon)

Justine Greening (Putney)

Jane Ellison (Battersea)

Greg Hands (Chelsea & Fulham)

Victoria Borwick (Kensington)

Tania Mathias (Twickenham)

James Berry (Kingston & Surbiton)

Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central)

Chris Phelp (Croydon South)

Paul Scully (Sutton & Cheam).

No MP from any other party supported the ESA cut.

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