Disgust over low pay in South Tyneside as figures show 6,000 workers in borough need to claim Universal Credit

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Concerns have been raised about thousands of people in South Tyneside claiming Universal Credit while continuing to work.

According to figures presented to councillors this week, around 6,000 South Tyneside residents claim the benefit while being classed as ‘in employment’.

The data was part of a council update on the borough’s monthly economic monitor, which looks at both employment figures and economic trends across South Tyneside and the region.

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Rory Sherwood-Parkin, South Tyneside Council’s corporate lead for policy and insight, told councillors: “We do unsurprisingly lag behind, as a region and a borough, the national average when it comes to pay rates.

There are calls for fairer pay.There are calls for fairer pay.
There are calls for fairer pay.

“The second graph is really important because it shows that a high number of people that are claiming Universal Credit are actually in work.

“So we have got around 6,000 residents in the borough claiming Universal Credit in work, suggesting a high degree of low-paid employment.

“Given the current cost of living pressures, you would expect that to really hurt those people who are in work but are on low levels of pay.”

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The council officer was speaking at a meeting of the local authority’s Education and Skills Panel at South Shields Town Hall on Wednesday,June 29.

Councillors heard that the South Tyneside unemployment claimant count was coming down in the borough, to 5.8% of the population in May 2022 compared to highs of around 9.6% during the Covid-19 pandemic.

However council officers added that South Tyneside’s electoral ward data continues to show a “real disparity” across the borough in terms of claimant counts.

This included claimant counts of almost 10% in areas like Beacon and Bents and Biddick and All Saints, compared to 1.6% in Cleadon and East Boldon.

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While the wider measure of unemployment is also falling suggesting that the labour market is improving, councillors heard the picture was uncertain and would be monitored in coming months.

During discussion on the figures, councillor Katharine Maxwellnoted the difference between the North East region and national rates and said that there was a “lot of levelling up to do”.

Councillor Judith Taylor also singled out the hardship faced by thousands of borough residents highlighted in the presentation.

Cllr Taylor added: “I think it’s a disgrace that people are working and having to claim Universal Credit as well, an absolute disgrace.”

The borough’s monthly economic monitor can be found on South Tyneside Council’s website.