THE LAST few weeks in parliament have seen interventions from the Labour party to prevent a government assault on the UK’s most disadvantaged people, primarily through the cutting of Universal Credit benefits and yet another inflation-busting rise in council tax.
Cutting Universal Credit during what is perhaps the UK’s greatest public health crisis and a crippling recession would be a disaster for so many of the nation’s poorest families.
If the extra allowance is scrapped in April, it will amount to the loss of more than £1,000 over 12 months for 6million hard-pressed households.
The £20 benefit boost has provided some of the most vulnerable people and families with certainty and insulation from the worst financial effects of covid-19. In Warwick and Leamington, the number of people in receipt has more than doubled since March and the outbreak of the pandemic.
There were just over 3,000 claimants in March compared to nearly 6,700 as of November, according to the latest available figures. This figure is extremely likely to have increased over Christmas.
To cut Universal Credit in April would be tantamount to the government consciously pushing hundreds of thousands of families into poverty – including 730,000 children by 2025, according to social affairs think-tank The Resolution Foundation. This is quite frankly, inhuman.
On Monday (January 25), Labour voted to block a damaging council tax rise which is being forced on cash-strapped local councils. Hard-pressed households are once again being asked to stump up yet more money for less. This government should not be making families pay for its mishandling of the covid-19 crisis and its broken promises to support councils.
I’m afraid to say it is shameful the government continues to make its disingenuous claim that it is levelling up our country and our society. The truth behind these claims is laid bare in its approach to local government finance where it has brazenly encouraged this widening of wealth between our local authorities.
Instead of levelling up, it has presided over an acceleration of inequality across this country while families are made to stump up more money for less. Fortunately, the public is starting to see through the charade. After years of inflation-busting council tax increases, in effect forced upon authorities by successive Conservative governments, the public has seen next to nothing in return.
Residents in Warwick and Leamington are facing a further increase of £94 on average for this coming financial year despite next to no increase in wages. All while Universal Credit claimants have doubled, food bank usage in Warwick district hit record levels and a damaging public sector pay freeze is set to be inflicted on thousands of key workers in the constituency.
This is unacceptable. And I will continue to rally against these proposals.