Essex Labour councillors call for universal credit cut to be axed
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Essex's Labour councillors have urged Tory MPs to back a vote calling for the government to scrap its plans to cut Universal Credit.
Ministers have come under sustained pressure to reverse the decision to end the £20 uplift introduced to support families during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter addressed to all Essex MPs, the county's Labour group said the top-up had been "a vital lifeline for thousands of residents".
The letter, signed by Labour councillors Ivan Henderson, Adele Brown, Aidan Mcgurran, Dave Harris, Lee Scordis, read: "We know that in July 2021, the Department for Work and Pensions has over 100,000 people calculated as claiming Universal Credit in Essex alone.
"The numbers compared to previous months are not dropping - in fact some postcodes have seen a rise in claimants.
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"We also know that a high proportion of those on Universal Credit are in low-paid work. Yet they are being punished with a cut in their support.
"As Labour councillors we have seen the damaging effects of the pandemic on families, as well as the damaging effects of the delays in Universal Credit payments.
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"We have delivered over 600 food parcels as a group in the last year in the fifth richest country in the world.
"To some £20 a week may not seem like a lot. However, to a family just getting by it can be the difference between heating and eating, to replacing school uniform that is damaged, or just to pay the bills.
"All of you stood on a manifesto of ‘levelling-up’. However this proposal to cut from the poorest working families achieves the opposite of this.
"The government’s own report warns of a huge surge in food bank usage, poverty and homelessness.
"In the interest of fairness and in the interest of the welfare of your constituents we urge you to support this motion to extend the £20 top-up to help those families struggling in these extraordinary times."
During an opposition day debate today, Labour will call on Tory MPs who oppose the welfare cut to vote with them in a non-binding motion.
It asks the government to cancel the planned cut which will reduce support for families by up to £1,040 per year.
Ministers have defended the termination of the uplift, which will be phased out from the end of the month, by saying it was only ever designed to be a temporary response to the pandemic.
A government spokesman said: "Universal Credit will continue to provide a vital safety net for those both in and out of work and it's right that the government should focus on our Plan for Jobs, supporting people back into work and supporting those already employed to progress and earn more."