Christian Lib Dem leader Tim Farron backs Salvation Army in fighting cuts

Tim Farron visits Salvation Army drop-in centre in Oxford St, central London.Salvation Army

The leader of the Liberal Democrats has called for homeless shelters to be protected from Government welfare reforms and "punishing" cuts.

Tim Farron, a committed Christian, said concerns that changes to social rents could cost the Salvation Army up to £1.5 million over the next four years must be taken seriously and acted on.

He said: "This is yet another example of Chancellor George Osborne's ideological cuts to welfare, which simply go too far and punish those who really don't deserve it. He should visit the Salvation Army to see the great work they do every single day of the year and understand this is about more than just a figure on a spreadsheet.

"The Salvation Army puts their faith into action to provide safety, security and a sense of self-worth for people whose lives have been turned upside-down."

He described it as a "pleasure" to meet guests at the drop-in centre while they enjoyed their Christmas dinner. He also took the opportunity to discuss with staff the funding cuts that homeless charities are facing, buried in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. Among the many outcomes, the cuts will mean fewer beds and fewer staff can be resourced by charities helping homeless people. 

Farron said: "It is ludicrous for homeless shelters like theirs to be caught up in the net of welfare cuts when they meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in the UK. With rising rents and a huge shortage of affordable homes, residential homeless shelters are needed now more than ever."

The cuts will also hit shelters that support victims of domestic violence. 

The party will vote in the House of Lords for an exemption for homeless shelters to social rent cuts when an amendment is put foward by crossbencher Lord Best on 21 December. The Bill includes a requirement for social rents to be cut by one per cent a year until the end of the Parliament. This cut is causing concern across the sector, for local authorities, housing associations and charities, which rely on the income from social rent or housing benefit to deliver services. The Local Government Association has said it will cost councils £2.6 billion by 2019/20.