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Bern cantonal vote Voters decide against cuts to welfare payments

Beggar in the streets of Bern

The result of the vote in Bern could scupper plans in other cantons to cut welfare payments.  

(Keystone)

Welfare benefits will not be reduced in canton Bern after voters threw out a proposal as part of efforts to lower public spending.

Final results showed 52.6% of voters rejecting a plan by the cantonal parliament to reduce payments by between 8% and 30%, according to the Bern state chancelleryexternal link.

A counter-proposal by left-wing groups also failed to win a majority of votes on Sunday.

The result is seen as an upset and could block attempts notably by right-wing and centre-right parties in other regions to cut welfare benefits. The authorities expected to save between CHF8 and CHF19 million ($8-$19 million) annually.

Opponents welcomed the result, saying it showed the “spirit of solidarity” among the population. They argued that long-term unemployed and single parents would be most affected by the planned cuts.

The government member in charge of health and public welfare, Pierre Alain Schnegg, said he would push ahead with reform plans to boost the integration of beneficiaries into the labour market.

Supporters of the cuts said the current system is unfair to low-income earners as they have less money available than people living on welfare. 

The proposal would have set the level of the payments below a standard agreed by the country's 26 cantons, most municipalities as well as private organisation to ensure a modest lifestyle.  

Canton Bern and its municipalities spent about CHF272 million on welfare in 2017. There were just over 42,700 residents who received financial support from the authorities in a region with an above-average proportion of beneficiaries.

swissinfo.ch/urs

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