Labour county councillors warned that the proposed £20 a week cut to Universal Credit payments will not only plunge more working class people into poverty, but also take out around £67 million from Lincolnshire’s economy.
The government has planned to cut £20 a week from Universal Credit payments, after a temporary rise was introduced last April in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The scheme will officially end on October 6, meaning the last payment at the higher rate will be at the end of September, as the government insists focus must be shifted towards getting people back into work instead.
MPs voted 253-0 in favour of cancelling the cut on September 15, but due to it being non-binding, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is still expected to ignore the result and push on with it.
As of August 2021, there were 64,776 claimants of Universal Credit in Lincolnshire, an increase of 654 from the previous month.
Here is a breakdown of the figures, accurate as of August 12, 2021:
- Lincoln – 11,206 (up 207 from previous month)
- North Kesteven – 6,753 (up 144 from previous month)
- East Lindsey – 13,234 (down 14 from previous month)
- Boston – 8,067 (up 69 from previous month)
- South Holland – 7,756 (up 43 from previous month)
- South Kesteven – 10,732 (up 113 from previous month)
- West Lindsey – 7,028 (up 92 from previous month)
Gainsborough MP Sir Edward Leigh has backed the Universal Credit cut, saying that it was only a “temporary measure” despite acknowledging that there will be many people in hardship as a result.
Mr Leigh said: “It costs £6 billion, we want to end furlough, end people sitting at home, get people back into work and provide need where it’s really needed; not just have universal benefit splashed out all over the country irrespective of need.”
A Labour motion before Lincolnshire County Council last week attempted to get the authority to call on the government to not end the Universal Credit uplift, though it was quickly defeated.
Cllr Rob Parker said that claimants had increased by 95% since before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the cut could result in up to £67 million being lost from the local economy.
Former Lincoln MP Karen Lee also condemned the plans, saying it would be the “biggest cut in history” affecting one in 14 people.
Leader of Lincolnshire County Council Martin Hill, however, said that it wasn’t a cut, and instead just an end to additional money granted as temporary support.
He did say that there will be an increase in income due to businesses needing to pay more “because they need people to do the jobs” as a consequence of Brexit.
Two senior Conservative officials are expected to force a last-minute vote in the House of Commons to try and cancel the cuts, though much like Labour’s vote last week, it will be non-binding.