The Labour party is using its Opposition Day, later today, to force a House of Commons vote against government plans to cut the £20 a-week Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit increase.
Calls for the government to reconsider the ‘temporary scheme’ have been echoed by the liberal Conservativism think tank, Blue Bright.
Deprivation is on the rise
New analysis reveals the “exacerbating regional inequality in England” as a result of the pandemic.
‘Left behind’ industrial communities and coastal towns have experienced high rises in Universal Credit claims, undermining the governments ‘level up’ scheme, the analysis claims.
Sandwell local authority is one of the most educationally deprived local authorities in England, experiencing a 9.1% increase in the working population claiming Universal Credit during the first eight months of the pandemic.
Anvar Sarygulov, Senior Research Fellow at Bright Blue, acknowledges the pandemic making the ‘levelling-up’ of left-behind areas “a lot harder” but calls on the government to ensure higher deprived local authorities receive resources to assist the economic recovery once lockdown lifts.
“There is also a clear relationship between local authorities experiencing higher rates of UC claimants and having lower levels of education and skills among their population. These English local authorities are therefore less likely to be able to bounce back quickly with increased employment outcomes. This really does threaten to undermine government attempts to ‘level-up’ so-called left-behind areas of the country over the long-term”Anvar Sarygulov, Widening chasms
MPs call out to cancel the cut
MPs have taken to Twitter to galvanise support for the Universal Credit uplift to remain using the hashtag #cancelthecut.
Former Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield, Richard Burden took to Twitter to show his support.
The motion Labour will put to MPs will state: “That this House believes that the government should stop the planned cut in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit in April and give certainty today to the six million families for whom it is worth an extra £1,000 a year.”
Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Jonathan Reynolds spoke to Sky news yesterday about the potential impact if the uplift is cut.
“If you go ahead with this cut, you are reducing out-of-work support, unemployment benefits, to their lowest real-terms level since 1992 at a time when unemployment is about to peak.Jonathan Reynolds
It is rumoured that Chancellor Rushi Sunak is examining the idea to offer a one-off £500 payment to those who will lose out when the £20-a-week Universal Credit increase ends in April.
Reynolds called it a “terrible idea”.
“But of course the reason why a one-off payment is a bad policy is whilst we are talking about six million families being affected, those families will change throughout the year.
“Some families will go back to work, some will come out.
“We have had at times in the pandemic 200,000 new claimants coming on to the system in a single month so a one-off payment, a snapshot, completely fails to support those people.”Jonathan Reynolds
The chancellor’s budget is due on 3 March but he has stressed the need for “hard choices” to deal with the current economic state as a result of the pandemic.