HAMPSHIRE’S Conservative heartlands will be hit hard by cuts to child benefit, new figures show.

The controversial decision to phase out the payment for wealthier households comes into force this week.

More than 15,000 letters have been sent out to homes in the south, warning them they will be losing out.

However the true number affected is much higher, as many families have not yet been warned – with ministers relying on an awareness campaign to keep people informed.

Winchester Tory MP Steve Brine, whose household will be affected, said he had not received any letter, saying this was “ridiculous”.

He said: “I didn’t see the publicity and if I missed it, there’s a pretty good chance that other people did too.”

According to figures published in Parliament, almost 3,000 letters were sent to people in Mr Brine’s Winchester constituency, 1,340 in New Forest East and 1,150 in New Forest West.

This compares to 390 in Labour-held Southampton Itchen and 590 in Southampton Test.

Child benefit is worth £20.30 a week for the oldest or only child and £13.40 a week for other children.

Across the country, around 1.2m families will lose their entitlement.

Any household where one parent earns more than £50,000 will no longer be entitled to the full amount, and it will be removed entirely where one earns £60,000 or above.

Households have been urged to come forward and give up their right to the payments, or will be forced to carry out self-assessment tax returns.

The move has been hugely controversial with some Conservatives, with Tory areas largely the worstaffected.

Mr Brine said alternatives should have been pursued, for example by limiting the payment to two children while appealing for wealthy households to give it up to help cut the deficit.

He added: “This is what deficit reduction looks like.

There is nothing nice about it, and this is a particularly unpleasant measure.”