Amid a looming cost-of-living crisis, the Prime Minister was today facing mounting pressure to abandon his plans to end the £20-a-week uplift to Universal Credit.
The heads of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland administrations said withdrawing the uplift would leave millions across the UK facing an “unprecedented squeeze” on their household budgets.
At-a-glance: 5 key points
- The temporary uplift in UC, announced last year at the start of the pandemic, began winding down towards the end of September and will finally come to an end this week.
- In a joint letter to Boris Johnson, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, and the First and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Paul Givan and Michelle O’Neill, said there was still time for a change of heart.
- The letter says that the UK is facing an “unprecedented squeeze on household budgets” amid rising energy bills and the fuel crisis.
- Senior Tories have also criticised the plans, questioning how it helps to “level up” the country.
- Boris Johnson has arrived in Manchester for the Tory Party Conference, where he will face tough questions on the multiple crises faced by the UK.
What does the joint letter say?
Writing as Conservatives were gathering for their annual party conference, they said: “Your Government is withdrawing this lifeline just as the country is facing a significant cost-of-living crisis.
“This winter millions of people are facing an untenable combination of increases to the cost of food and energy, rising inflation, the end of the furlough scheme, and an imminent hike to National Insurance contributions.
“There is no rationale for cutting such crucial support at a point when people across the UK are facing an unprecedented squeeze on their household budgets.”
They said a £500 million hardship fund announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak to provide discretionary payments to the most vulnerable was a “wholly inadequate” replacement for the £6 billion provided through the uplift.
“To support a meaningful recovery from this pandemic we must first ensure the needs of our most vulnerable are met,” they said.
“This cut threatens to undermine the recovery by diminishing the capacity of six million people to make ends meet.
“It is not too late for you to reverse the decision to take money out of the pockets of the poorest in society at a time when they are facing a serious cost of living crisis.”
Criticism from Tories
The PM was also facing criticism from within his own party today.
Jake Berry, who chairs the Northern Research Group of about Tory MPs in northern seats, told the Observer: “The challenge for the government at this conference is to square the circle of how you can level up deindustrialised and poorer communities in the north of England while at the same time taking cash out of their pockets through a national insurance rise and cuts in universal credit.”
What has the Government said in response?
A Government spokesman said: “We’ve always been clear that the uplift to Universal Credit and the furlough scheme were temporary.
“They were designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and they have done so.
“Universal Credit will continue to provide vital support for those both in and out of work.”
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