A number of Essex councillors are to donate their allowances to a local food bank in response to the government’s decision to cut the £20 a week Universal Credit uplift.

The community leaders hope the gesture will help offset the impact of the changes - which would see families lose £1,040 a year.

Uttlesford District Council was given Local Government Association statistics which revealed 4,806 people in the district were claiming Universal Credit as of August 2021, with 2,078 of those in employment.

Residents for Uttlesford, Conservative and Independent councillors amended the original motion, which would have seen the council call on the government to retain the uplift, to also include inviting all councillors to donate up to all of their monthly allowances to the Uttlesford Food Bank during November.

But the amendment drew fierce criticism from Liberal Democrat members who tabled the original motion, arguing families needed “cash in their pocket” rather than having to continually rely on charity.

Lib Dem councillor Alan Dean said: “This food bank introduction is a kind of soppy thing which in cash terms will be very small in total, and anyway most of us give to the foodbank already and to make it a regulation is just nonsense.”

Conservative group leader Christian Criscione told the meeting the council needed to stop “virtue signalling”.

He said: “Would it hit me financially to give up, as we are suggesting we do, my councillors allowance?

“Yes, yes it would, but I will and I know others in the same situation will, because they know there are people out there who are much worse off than us.

“24 grand is the maximum we can raise here and that will go a hell of a long way.”

The end of the Universal Credit uplift scheme, in combination with a 12% rise in the maximum energy companies can charge, has prompted fears families in the district will be financially will worse off over the winter period.

Councillors will be updated on on how the money has been spent in the first full council meeting of 2022.