COUNCILLORS: Ending of Universal Credit an ‘unforgivable hammer blow’
Ending of Universal Credit an ‘unforgivable hammer blow’, say councillors
Manchester councillors have accused the government of delivering an ‘unforgivable hammer blow’ to unemployed people and those on low incomes by ending the Universal Credit uplift.
As of today (October 6) the extra £20-a-week in benefit payments paid out to 58,339 households in the city since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic has been stopped.
Politicians, charities and the campaigning Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford had all called for the uplift, described as a ‘lifeline’, to be kept in place.
But at this week’s Conservative Party conference in Manchester, chancellor Rishi Sunak said that the uplift was always meant to be temporary, and would end as planned.
A Labour motion opposing the end to the uplift was backed by all 96 members of Manchester council, including Liberal Democrat and Green Party members.
Coun Sarah Judge, who tabled the motion, told a full council meeting today that people should not be faced with ‘a choice between heating and eating’.
“Families up and down the country are facing a triple whammy with rising energy prices, national insurance rises and now a £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit,” she said.
“We heard from government ministers that this cut is aimed at getting more people into employment.
“Clearly those ministers have not seen the latest Department of Work and Pension figures showing a huge 40 per cent of people on Universal Credit are already in employment.
“Families across our city are already struggling enough after years of austerity, rising cost of living and the impact of Covid-19.
“The government needs to realise these are people trying to do the best for themselves and their families, they’re not statistics.”
Coun Judge told the meeting that a leaked government memo said that ‘homelessness and poverty are likely to rise, and food banks usage will soar’ as a result of the uplift ending.
This showed the government was accepting that its decision would ‘push people further into poverty’ according to Coun Judge, who added: “This is indefensible.
“When I speak to residents in my ward I hear stories of mums who tell their kids they’ll eat later but they never do because they can’t afford to feed themselves as well as their children.
“I hear from families who are unable to clothe their children to heat their homes, and people who have struggled for so long that they don’t see a point to life anymore.
“We’re one of the richest countries in the world, why is this a reality for so many?”
Seconding the motion, fellow Labour councillor Emma Taylor said all eyes had been on the Conservatives as they set out their plans to rebuild the country a few hundred metres away in the Manchester Central Convention Complex.
Coun Taylor said if the government was serious about levelling up and providing a quality of life for all ‘we must begin with those who need our help the most’.
“Anti-poverty charities say that the cut would push half a million people below the poverty line,” she added.
“How is this building back better? This unforgivable hammer blow to millions across the country will have a huge impact when the country is still in a state of recovery.”
The motion was supported by the Lib Dem councillor John Leech, who said the removal of the uplift would result in ‘massive hardship’ for struggling families.
He said that for most people the extra £20-a-week would pay for ‘a round of drinks or a taxi or a visit to the cinema’ but for Universal Credit claimants it is a choice between paying rent, bills or council tax.
Green councillor Rob Nunney said the ending of the uplift would be exacerbated by the rising prices of food and energy.
He also warned that more children in the UK would be at risk from being removed from their families and placed into care due to the impact of Universal Credit.
A spokesperson for the government said: “We’ve always been clear that the uplift to Universal Credit was temporary.
“It was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and it has done so.
“Universal Credit will continue to provide vital support for those both in and out of work and it’s right that the government should focus on our Plan for Jobs, supporting people back into work and supporting those already employed to progress and earn more.”
Words: Niall Griffiths, Local Democracy Reporter
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