North East MPs pen letter slamming government’s “indefensible” £20 Universal Credit cut

Labour MPs from across the North East have written to the chancellor Rishi Sunak urging the government to scrap plans for the “indefensible” cut to Universal Credit by £20 a week from October.

Tuesday, 7th September 2021, 4:41 pm

The additional payment was introduced during the Covid crisis to help families deal with the additional financial burden inflicted by the pandemic.

The letter was penned by Durham city MP Mary Kelly Foy and signed by signed by all 17 Labour MPs in the North East.

Mrs Foy said: “There isn’t a single MP who’s not aware of the devastating impact the cut to Universal Credit will have on their constituents and their local economies, so for any politician to support it is both cruel and illogical.

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17 North East MPs have signed a letter calling for the government not to remove the additional £20 a week payment which was added to Universal Credit during the pandemic.

“In my own constituency we have 6510 working age families who will be impacted by the cut, as well as 3260 working age families with children. Every MP will have seen similar data for their own constituency, and they owe it to their constituents to do everything they can to fight this cut.”

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A key focus of the letter was the potential impact on region’s most vulnerable residents by the removal of the financial “lifeline” which the MPs say will deprive families in our region of around £41 million and impact on around 160,000 children.

The letter stated: “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.

Sunderland Central MP, Julie Elliott, is one of 17 Labour MPs who have written to the chancellor Rishi Sunak asking him not to go ahead with plans to remove the current additional £20 per week payment from Universal Credit.

"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.

"It is simply incomprehensible why any responsible government would choose to take such action when the negative consequences are so clear to see.”

The prime minister has spoken previously about the need to get people off benefits and into work but the MPs say this “out of touch” with the reality of Universal Credit with almost 40 per cent of claimants in work.

Jarrow MP, Kate Osborne (left), and Emma Lewell-Buck, the MP for South Shields, have also signed the letter asking the government not to scrap the additional £20 per week Universal Credit payment.

Defending the decision, a government spokesman said: “As announced by the chancellor at the Budget, the uplift to Universal Credit was always temporary. It 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 vital support 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.”

MPs who’ve given their backing to the letter include Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, Bridget Phillipson, MP for

Houghton and Sunderland South, Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central, along with Emma Lewell-Buck and Kate Osborne who represent the constituencies of South Shields and Jarrow respectively.

Universal Credit is available to people out of work, those who are unable to work and employees on low incomes.

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