A TOTAL of 185 East Lancashire residents or families have had their benefits capped by the government. 

Across Britain, almost 33,000 households saw their welfare payments reduced to national average earnings of £26,000 a year for couples and £18,500 for single individuals.

There were 2,292 in the north west, with Manchester the local authority most affected in the region, where 363 have faced cuts since the policy was rolled out last April.

Blackburn with Darwen saw 74 households capped, Burnley 26, Chorley 19 and Hyndburn 34. In Pendle the figure was 17, in Ribble Valley two and Rossendale 13.

Capping benefits so that households no longer get more in benefits than the average family earns is a key part of the Government’s long-term economic plan.

Bishop of Burnley John Goddard and Hyndburn MP Graham Jones expressed concern that the cap, while good in principle, could be a blunt instrument in dealing with vulnerable families.

Friday's statistics show that in November almost 150 households nationwide were capped by at least £350 a week; more than 1,000 single people without children were capped; and the top 10 areas (mainly in London) had more than 500 capped households each.

Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Freud, said: “These figures show that the benefit cap is returning fairness to the system by ensuring that families on benefits can no longer get more money than the average family earns.

“It is not right that some families on benefits were receiving amounts of money that hardworking taxpayers could only dream of and our welfare reforms are working to fix the system.

“We already know that around 19,000 claimants potentially affected by the benefit cap have found jobs.”

Mr Jones said: “Labour supports the benefit cap but it can be a blunt instrument in terms of how people across the country are affected.

Bishop Goddard said: “The benefit cap is a good idea in principle but it is a blunt instrument for some vulnerable families.”

Blackburn MP Jack Straw said: “The principle of a benefits cap is a good idea. I have had no representations from Blackburn claimants affected. I shall be interested to see if any do in the future.”