Two Tory MPs urge Boris Johnson to keep £20 universal credit rise

TWO Conservative MPs have writen to Boris Johnson urging him to keep the £20 rise to universal credit. 

Peter Aldous and John Stevenson said the £20-a-week increase, which is due to end next month, should be made permanent.

It was brought in to help families cope throughout the pandemic, however its removal has caused controversy.

Charities and opposition politicians say the vital cash is a lifeline for people and removing it will force more people into poverty and debt. 

However the Treasury has so far rejected calls to make it a permanent rise.

Boris Johnson said today that the focus was on coming out of the pandemic with “a jobs-led recovery”, saying he was proud to see the living wage had risen.

He said: “I’m very pleased to see the way the unemployment numbers have been falling, employment numbers have been rising and also wages have been rising.

“My strong preference is for people to see their wages rise through their efforts rather than through txation of other people put into their pay packets, rather than welfare.”

In their letter, the MPs for Suffolk and Carlisle said they did “not take this step lightly”.

They said they had “very serious concerns” about the impact on low-income families and were “alarmed to see the government unwilling to heed the widespread warnings that are coming from all quarters” about the impact on living standards.

They added: “Our central promise at the last election, that you articulated so well, was to level up.

“Infrastructure is a crucial part of this agenda, but with the emphasis solely on eye-catching projects we are at risk of forgetting the importance of investment in people in these communities, without whom this vision cannot be realised.”

They told Mr Johnson that the majority of people impacted by the cut “are in fact already in work” and “low paid, hardworking families will see up to £1,040 slashed from their income”.

The £20-a-week boost is “one of our best legacies from the pandemic” and the investment must continue, they added.

The MPs’ intervention comes amid increased warnings from campaigners as the change looms.

The charity Citizens Advice has warned that a third of people on universal credit, or at least 2.3 million people, will end up in debt when the extra payment is removed in October.

It said the average shortfall for people would be between £51 and £55 a month.

Its chief executive, Dame Clare Moriarty, said: “A cut to universal credit this autumn will be a hammer blow to millions of people.

“It undermines our chance of a more equal recovery by tipping families into the red and taking money from the communities most in need.

“The government must listen to the growing consensus that it should reverse course and keep this vital lifeline.”

In a separate breakdown of the figures, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which campaigns against poverty, said a third of working age families would be affected in more than 400 constituencies across Britain.

Deputy director of policy at the charity, Katie Schmuecker, said with warnings coming from all sides, “now is the time for all MPs to step up and oppose this cut to their constituents’ living standards”.

She added: “Plunging low-income families into deeper poverty and debt as well as sucking billions of pounds out of local economies is no way to level up.

“It’s not too late for the prime minister and chancellor to listen to the huge opposition to this damaging cut and change course.

Labour also criticised the cut, saying it would hit the lowest paid hardest and damage the country’s economic recovery.

Shadow work and pensions secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, said: “Time is running out for the Conservatives to see sense, back struggling families and cancel their cut to universal credit.

“Labour would maintain the uplift until we can replace universal credit with a fairer social security system.”

In July, Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed the uplift would be scrapped “as it was always intended to be a temporary measure”.

He said like the furlough scheme, the top-up was part of the policies to deal with the crisis and would have to come to an end.

And he said ministers thought the best approach going forward to support people was to “help them into work and make sure those jobs are well paid”.

A government spokesman said: “The temporary uplift to universal credit 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 a vital safety net and with record vacancies available, alongside the successful vaccination rollout, it’s right that we now focus on our Plan for Jobs, helping claimants to increase their earnings by boosting their skills and getting into work, progressing in work or increasing their hours.”

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992