A leading Trafford Labour councillor has branded the government’s decision to scrap the £20 Universal Credit uplift as ‘cruel and reckless’.
Cllr David Acton, who represents Gorse Hill ward, fears millions of people will be plunged deeper into poverty when the financial top up is axed in September.
In a motion tabled during the meeting of Full Council, on Wednesday, Cllr Acton argued that the payment should continue and be extended to all benefit claimants.
The extra money has been paid to those receiving Universal Credit since last year as a way of supporting people throughout the pandemic after redundancies, the furlough scheme and income loss pushed thousands of families further into poverty.
However, despite stark warnings, the government still plans to cut the payment in just a few weeks’ time.
“Even with the temporary £20 a week uplift, many families are still struggling to make ends meet, therefore to withdraw it will be a cruel and reckless measure, which will throw those living on the edge of poverty over a financial cliff, “ argued Cllr Acton.
“This is a dreadful act, which flies in the face of the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who claims he wants to level up those people who have been left behind by his own party.
“If the government had any intention of levelling up then this measure shatters that claim.”
Anti-poverty champions have predicted that already struggling families could be as much as £1,000 a year worse off when the payment it stopped.
“Cutting this benefit will have a devastating impact on the poorest people in the country and will create unbearable hardship for many families here in Trafford and across the UK,” added Cllr Acton.
“It’s a disgrace. And more evidence that this government is completely out of touch.
“People are losing their jobs, their homes and businesses – and now they’re losing their benefits, too.
‘It is shameful.’
His concerns have been echoed by Labour colleague, Cllr Jill Axford, who says there is no justification in the ‘savage’ reduction of people’s incomes.
“The government says the focus must now be on getting people back to work, even though many claimants are already in work, albeit at the whim of sporadic, low paid zero hours contracts, rather than work with the fair wage and conditions that people deserve,” wrote Cllr Axford.
“Not only this, but there’s also been an increase in domestic violence leading to single parent incomes, a rise in mental health problems, an increase in health conditions that restrict people from working full time, and now a restart in evictions, with many using this extra £20 towards their rent.
“We need a benefits system that’s fit for purpose, a genuine safety net for those who through lose their job, reduce their earnings or can no longer work due to their health or situation. Maintaining this £20 increase would be just a tiny step towards this outcome. Removing this top up is simply punitive and hurtful in these uncertain times.”