Labour MPs from across the North East have written to Rishi Sunak MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, to call for the Government to cancel plans to cut Universal Credit by £20 a week from October.
The letter, organised by Mary Kelly Foy, MP for the City of Durham, and signed by all 17 Labour MPs in the North East, highlights the devastating impact the cut to Universal Credit will have on the North East and adds to the growing calls from across the region for the Government to perform a U-turn. In recent weeks, civil society organisations, local politicians, and local faith leaders have all pushed for the cut to be scrapped.
Full text of the letter can be found below:
We are writing to you in opposition to your decision to cut Universal Credit by £20 a week from October. While Universal Credit remains a deeply flawed system that must be replaced, the uplift in payments has been a lifeline to many during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We have all been contacted by constituents on Universal Credit who detailed just how important the money is to them and their families, and it is clear that the cut will have a profound impact in the North-East. In total, it will deprive families in our region of around £41 million a year and around 160,000 children in the North-East will be impacted by your decision.
We believe that to slash support for the most vulnerable in our society would be wrong at the best of times, but to do so during a pandemic is indefensible. In particular, the decision to combine this cut with an end to the furlough scheme, means that the main form of job retention will be removed while simultaneously reducing the main form of unemployment support. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has warned that the cut risks pushing 500,000 people into poverty across the country.
It is simply incomprehensible why any responsible government would choose to take such action when the negative consequences are so clear to see. This cut will be a hammer blow to families in the North East, hit the lowest paid hardest, and hurt our economic recovery. Your government simply cannot look to our region and talk about levelling up while having so little regard for the economic impact that this cut will have on our communities.
While the Prime Minister might insist that that the Government’s focus is on “….getting people off benefits and into work”, this messaging is completely out of touch with the reality of Universal Credit, with almost 40% of claimants in work. So, alongside a strong social security system, there needs to be meaningful action from Government to tackle low wages, insecure work, and unacceptable working conditions, so that those in work do not need to rely on Universal Credit to make ends meet.
We urge you to do the right thing, support working people, and cancel your cut to Universal Credit.