RADICAL welfare reform could affect the health of 40,00 people living in Runcorn and Widnes, claims Halton’s new NHS boss.

Simon Banks, chief executive of Halton Clinical Commissioning Group which controls the borough’s health services, fears families will struggle to cope with proposed benefit cuts.

He said: “Welfare reform will affect one in three people in Halton.

“It will affect every single household in some way, shape or form.

“The impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing will be like a rising tide.”

Thousands of families who receive housing benefit and council tax will see their income drop from April 2013, as the Government cuts funding to Halton Council by 10 per cent.

Pensioners will be protected, but 13,014 people who receive £52 million housing benefit, and 15,305 who claim council tax will have their money slashed.

Further cuts will follow as a benefit cap and universal credit are introduced.

Some 3,128 tenants living in homes with spare bedrooms will also lose income as a surplus ‘bedroom tax’ is levied.

Housing benefit will be paid direct to tenants instead of landlords.

Mr Banks said: “Many people do not have bank accounts and will struggle to manage their household bills.

“They might feel it is more important to feed the kids than pay gas bills. Rent might not get paid.

“This new system requires a level of literacy for people to be able to respond to letters. If they lack the competence to do that, they may find that their benefits have stopped before they realise what has happened.

“Some people who receive welfare benefit will find that their disability is no longer valid.

“There will be an impact on GP surgeries.”