Calls for action over scrapped Universal Credit uplift

Two motions calling for Adur District and Worthing Borough Councils to take action on the scrapped £20 Universal Credit uplift have been dismissed by councillors.

Friday, 12th November 2021, 12:47 pm
The government ended a temporary uplift in Universal Credit, while in his Budget Rishi Sunak announced a reduction to the taper rate

The councils’ joint strategic committee (JSC) voted against the motions on Tuesday (November 10), saying they had been ‘overtaken by events’ and that ‘millions of jobs are available’.

One motion, put forward by Lee Cowen (Lab, Mash Barn), called on the council to ‘recognise the damaging impact of the cuts to Universal Credit’.

Mr Cowen and seconder Debs Stainforth (Lab, Southlands) also called on the council to write to Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, to ask them to reinstate the temporary uplift.

A second, similar motion, put forward by Margaret Howard (Lab, Broadwater), called on the council’s cabinet to write to the Secretary of State, asking to retain the uplift.

According to Ms Howard, in June, 2021, there were ‘7,372 claimants of Universal Credit in Worthing West and another 7,475 in East Worthing and Shoreham’.

Mr Cowen said that 4,912 people in Adur were affected by the end of the Universal Credit uplift.

The motions were deferred from full council meetings in October as they fall within the remit of the JSC.

As a result, councillor Angus Dunn (Con, Hillside) said he could not support the motions as they had been ‘overtaken by events’.

“Events have rather overtaken the motion and for that reason, unfortunately, I’m not able to support it,” he said.

But he added: “I do support the sentiment and, like councillor Humphreys, I also disagree with the removal of the uplift.”

He was responding to Worthing JSC chair Dan Humphreys (Con, Offington), who said ‘completely removing the £20’ was not something he ‘necessarily supported’.

Mr Humphreys explained: “I’ve got a lot of sympathy with it – times are tough, aren’t they?

“We’ve just gone through the biggest economic shock we could possibly imagine, and an awful lot of people have faced hardship as a result.

“But other things have been put into place since then – which don’t cover the whole of that £20 by any means – but do provide more support, some of which will come via our councils.”

Mr Humphreys said the councils should ‘keep working in a consistent way with the Local Government Association’ on the uplift rather than sending letters, which he said risked ‘providing an inconsistent message’.

Gaisford councillor Kevin Jenkins (Con) said he could not support Ms Howard’s motion because ‘lots of letters will sit in in-trays, but they won’t necessarily have an effect’.

Mr Jenkins explained that ‘work is going on at the Local Government Association level’ which would provide a ‘collective voice’ on the issue.

Taper rate ‘provides more support’

Mr Humphreys added that the revised UC ‘taper rate’ would help address the effects of the scrapped uplift.

The revision was announced as part of the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget and will see claimants able to keep more of their UC once they start earning over the ‘work allowance’.

But Mr Cowen pointed out that the taper rate does not apply to all UC claimants.

When it was introduced, the taper rate applied to 1.9-million families on UC.

Mr Cowen said: “Whilst not every UC claimant will benefit from the taper rate decrease, every single one of them will be impacted by the £20 a week cut.”

‘Money tree still doesn’t exist’

Adur leader Neil Parkin (Con, St Nicolas) said he could not support the motions.

He explained his decision saying: “There’s over a million jobs out there. I know some of them are minimum wage, but they’re not all.”

Mr Parkin said that there were a large number of local shops and businesses ‘not opening their normal hours because they’re short of staff’.

“And at the back of everybody’s mind is the fact that the country is half-a-trillion pounds in debt,” he added. “The money tree still doesn’t exist, unfortunately.”

But Mr Cowen pointed out that, at the time he submitted his motion, 45 per cent of Adur UC recipients were employed.

He said: “There is a claim that Universal Credit is there to encourage people into work, yet the vast majority of jobs available to them are minimum wage jobs where they will still be on Universal Credit and therefore still lose the £20.

“There is widespread public backing to make [the uplift] permanent, so let’s send a message to the government.”