Ending £20 Universal Credit uplift will mean families choosing between ‘heating or eating’

By Chris Gee

The withdrawal of the £20-per week Universal Credit uplift will see many families in Bury facing the choice between ‘heating or eating’, councillors have heard.

Bury full council debated a motion put forward by the council’s Labour group to ‘stop the cut to Universal Credit’. which would affect 15,300 people in the borough, many of whom are in work.

The motion proposed that the authority write to the Prime Minister and Chancellor calling on them to stop the £20 a week cut to Universal Credit and called on Bury’s two MPs to oppose the cut and vote against it in Parliament.

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The temporary increase in was introduced last year amid the pandemic and extended in March, but it is due to be scrapped in early October.

During the debate, Labour councillor Lucy Smith, said: “The fact the Conservatives are doing it is mind boggling. I can’t understand how they can throw thousands of children into poverty and risk thousands of people’s homes.

“A charity in my ward supports 70 families with food. Why? Because there is not enough money in the household.

“The Tories say they would rather support people into work. They don’t even understand their own system.

“Universal Credit is an ‘in work’ benefit and there are nearly 7,000 people in Bury who are working and rely on it.

“They have got a job and work hard but they still need support because work no longer pays. What jobs are these people are doing?

“They are the carers, shop workers and cleaners, the key workers who saw us through this pandemic and the very people the Tories pretended to clap. And now you take £1,000 a year out of their homes and put up their taxes.”

The motion stated that the Child Poverty Action Group said that the £20 uplift is essential to ensure ‘low-income families with children receive the support they need’.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has warned that the cut could see another 200,000 children in the UK pushed into poverty.

Coun Gavin McGill, said: “For many people £20 a week is the difference between heating or eating.

“I’ve heard the arguments from the Conservatives and they are very similar to those about feeding the children of our borough out of term time.

“They say ‘it’s not needed’ and that is was ‘a temporary measure’, ‘people should get a job that pays better’.

“All these argument blame the person on Universal Credit.

“It’s as they are saying that people claim state benefits through choice rather than necessity.

“That says more about the person who is cutting a lifeline than those who are clinging on to it for dear life.

“Like many people I’ve had to claim unemployment benefit and it wasn’t pleasant but this is not about my story it’s about the stories of 15,300 people in Bury.

“They don’t want to claim Universal Credit but have to.”

Conservative councillor, Russell Bernstein told councillors that the £20 being withdrawn was not a cut and that his group ‘would be voting against this motion’.

He said: “There is a difference between a temporary uplift over the last 18 months and what is being considered as a cut.

“The Conservative group will be voting against this motion because we believe that the £407 billion package of support, which has included a £9 billion injection into our welfare system to help low income families, was right to support families through the toughest of times.

“Now as we move to the next phase of our recovery we believe the government are right to start prioritising more people back into work.

“Universal credit will continue rightly to provide a safety net.

“But as our economy grows with record job vacancies it is right to the shift of focus to help people into work and move away from the temporary uplift of £20.”

Conservative leader Coun Nick Jones said there had been a massive amount of work done to support people with the living wage increased to £8.91,
giving lowest paid workers a vital rise.

He added: “It was a temporary uplift.

“The government went above and beyond and did an awful lot to support the most vulnerable.”

A majority of councillors backed the motion with Conservative councillors voting against.

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