Chancellor George Osborne, who has been defending welfare reform this week, is accused of being “out of touch” after his official car was photographed parked in a disabled space.
The Daily Mirror published photographs today of George Osborne’s car parked in a disabled space, headlining the story: “Despicable”.
Sources close to the chancellor insisted that he was unaware of the decision to park the car in a space reserved for disabled people, which was taken by his driver.
The chancellor’s Land Rover was apparently parked in a disabled space at a service station on the M4 earlier this week. A senior Tory source said the vehicle had been reversed into the berth while Mr Osborne was inside at McDonald’s.
“George does not condone this in any way,” the source said.
It came on the same day that Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls admitted speeding – and that he was caught “bang to rights”.
He said he was travelling 56mph in a 50mph zone on the M62 motorway in his West Yorkshire constituency when he triggered a trap.
The MP for Morley and Outwood was fined and chose to attend a speed awareness class this week rather than accept penalty points on his licence.
Mr Balls owned up to the offence while raising the issue of speed awareness on his blog.
The picture of Mr Osborne comes in the same week he set out to defend his government’s sweeping welfare reforms, which some have suggested will hit disabled people unfairly.
Richard Hawkes, the chief executive of disability charity Scope, said it was a sign the chancellor was “wildly out of touch”.
“Disabled people will see this as an indication of a chancellor wildly out of touch with millions of disabled people struggling in their day to day lives,” he said.
Disabled people will see this as an indication of a chancellor wildly out of touch. Richard Hawkes, Scope
“This picture tells you everything about George Osborne’s attitude to benefits. He talks about a broken system abused by benefit scroungers. But the reality is many disabled people simply need support to get on with their life – including Blue Badge spaces.
“It doesn’t make them feckless, workshy or scroungers. Benefits can be a good thing. It’s time for the government to park this nasty benefits rhetoric and reverse its welfare plans.”
Mr Osborne was already facing controversy over linking the Mick Philpott case to the changes in the benefits system. Philpott, who lived off benefits, was jailed for killing six of his children on Thursday. His wife and friend were also jailed.
“There is a question for government and society about the welfare state, and the taxpayers who pay for the welfare state, subsidising lifestyles like that,” Mr Osborne said on Thursday, prompting a fierce outburst from shadow chancellor Ed Balls, who responded: “George Osborne’s calculated decision to use the shocking and vile crimes of Mick Philpott to advance a political argument is the cynical act of a desperate chancellor.”