Bill Esterson MP has criticised the £20 a week cut to universal credit, saying it will mean a choice between eating and heating for thousands of families in Sefton this winter.
From this week (October 6), the £20 a week uplift in the benefit that was introduced in response to the Covid pandemic will be removed. There are 26,400 families in Sefton on the benefit, which supports people who are out of work or have a low income.
Despite a recent rise in the cost of living due to increases in food, fuel and energy prices, the Conservative government has gone ahead with plans to remove the uplift.
MP for Sefton Central Mr Esterson said: “For many people on Universal Credit, £20 a week is the difference between feeding their family or not. It will mean a choice between heating and eating for thousands of families this winter. The uplift has made a huge difference to people in Sefton, and it took Universal Credit to the level of support that was first suggested by Ministers when the benefit was first brought in. Because of austerity it was made less generous, but this meant many families and children living in poverty. The uplift helped address that and should have been retained.
“There are 4,420 families in my constituency who claim universal credit. 40 per cent of those have at least one member of the household in work. There are 2,406 children living in families on this benefit in Sefton Central. You can bet that every pound of that uplift was spent in the local community, in shops and businesses here, helping the local economy. So it is not just the families who will lose this money who will be affected. This equates to more than £4.5m a year taken out of the local economy. Much of this money would have gone back to the government anyway through taxation. It is cruel at this time of rising living costs, and it is economically illiterate.
“One government minister has said it was just a couple of hours more work a week to make up for the cut, but due to the taper rate that is used to calculate universal credit, it is more like eight more hours a week at the minimum wage to make up for a £20 a week reduction. The Conservatives just don’t understand the lives of ordinary people.
“Boris Johnson is taking away this lifeline from thousands of families who I represent. That is why I think he should cancel this cut and it is why I and the Labour Party voted to cancel the cut in a recent Parliamentary vote.”