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3rd Jul, 2022

Concerns for struggling district families aired over Universal Credit drop

FAMILIES in Stratford could be facing poverty say councillors following the £20 Universal Credit drop.

This month, the Government ended the £20 Universal Credit (UC) weekly boost which aimed to help households tackle hardship exacerbated by the pandemic.

During the pandemic, the district was the fourth worst economically hit in England and its furlough take up rate – 16 per cent – was above average compared with other districts at 14 per cent.

And concerns have been raised how low-income earners and families in the district in receipt of UC – around 30 per cent – will be affected by the scrapping of the £20 ‘lifeline’.

Welford councillor Manuela Perteghella is urging Stratford District Council to press the government to retain the £20 uplift.

She said: “The removal of the £20 pounds per week from the Universal Credit is wrong and my motion asks the council to write to the Government denouncing these cuts, as well as to look at the impact of such cuts on council services such as housing.

“The fact that these have come at a time of rising food prices and higher gas and electricity bills, with the end of furlough and the hike in National Insurance tax, it’s just a cruel thing for this government to do. It shows sadly how completely out of touch our current leaders are.

“There are more than 5,000 families on Universal Credit in our district, some of these families are in my ward, and I know that they will feel the full force of these cuts in the coming weeks and months.

“It’s tragic that the Chancellor would spend more on his Help to Eat Out scheme than on helping the families who will need to choose whether to eat or heat this winter. And even more deplorable is the position of our own MP, Mr Zahawi, elected to stand up for all residents of his constituency, who is defending this heartless decision.”

Mr Zahawi reportedly defended Prime Minister Boris Johnson, after criticism he appeared to be avoiding the issue, pointing out it was only ever meant to be a temporary measure.

Mr Zahawi had not responded to the Observer’s request for comment at the time of going to press.

According to social change organisation The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the cut will impact 6,000,000 low-income families. Of these, families with children will be disproportionately affected.

It also estimates the cut could force 500,000 people, almost half of them children, into poverty.

The councillor’s motion, seconded by Coun Victoria Alcock, asks the council to look at the impact of the benefit cut and call on the government to make the £20 uplift permanent.

The motion was put forward at a district council meeting on Monday (October 18) and has been referred to the Cabinet for consideration and report without debate.

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