Benefits City: Over 500 families on £26,000

Benefits cap will not hit local households
Benefits cap will not hit local households

Around 400 households in the Cityside in Londonderry are pulling in over £26,000 in benefits, more than anywhere else in Northern Ireland.

There are 397 households in the BT48 postcode receiving benefits in excess of £26,000 - the equivalent of £500 per week after tax - according to figures from Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey.

TUV leader Jim Allister

TUV leader Jim Allister

In Londonderry as a whole - the Foyle parliamentary constituency - there are a full 550 households in receipt of more than £26,000 per year in benefits.

That figure is roughly equivalent to the take-home pay available to someone with a salary of £35,000.

In England, the Government has introduced a benefits cap which means no single household is entitled to more than £26,000 per year.

The average wage in Londonderry is around £380, before tax, according to figures taken from the Northern Ireland Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings.

There are 550 households in the Londonderry area in receipt of at least £500, tax free, in benefits.

The BT48 area is home to more people earning at least that amount in benefits than anywhere else in Northern Ireland.

The figures were requested by UKIP MLA, David McNarry in a follow up question to an earlier query by TUV leader Jim Allister.

Speaking to the Sentinel, Mr Allister said: “I don’t disagree at all that there are many people deserving to be recipients of benefits - people who are sick or who have disabilities and other people.

“However when you get to the point that there are so many people going out to work for such low pay and then there is such a high number of people in receipt of so much money. Why should they be a family earning £35,000 on benefits - that is what the equivalent earnings would be before tax, £35,000 per year.

“Where is the incentive to work? It would be unacceptable to me if there was such a high number of people in receipt of that amount of money.”

Mr Allister suggested there may be a benefits culture in Londonderry: “Why is there such a high level of benefits in one small geographic area? It leads you to think there must be a benefits culture.”