Clive Lewis For Norwich South
Today in Parliament, The Labour Party forced a vote on the Tories’ plans to cut £20 a week from Universal Credit. But shamefully, the Conservatives have chosen not to row back on plans to cut support for families in the middle of this pandemic. This £20 a week uplift was initially introduced in March 2020. The overt rationale was to compensate for the extra hardship caused by the Covid-19 crisis.
The Tories’ cut will see families on Universal Credit lose out by £1,000 a year: equivalent to the cost of an average family’s annual electricity, gas and internet bills combined. Here in Norwich, over 9000 individuals and 7000 families will be affected.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has suggested a one-off payment of £500 could substitute for the £20 a week uplift. But this is still a cut and only provides for a snapshot of people. Unemployment will rise in the coming months but new claimants would miss out on any one-off payment.
Our social security system has long been broken, but this pandemic has highlighted just how fragile it is. Many people who never thought they’d need benefits are finding out how inadequate Universal Credit is. Every day, my team and I hear from constituents, struggling to get by, who have ‘fallen through the net’.
So many people are being hit by other Tory failures too. Statutory sick pay levels are still dangerously inadequate. The Government’s shambolic approach to free school meals has left families uncertain about how their children will be fed during school closures. People receiving legacy benefits – Employment and Support Allowances, Job Seekers Allowance, Income Support and Carer’s Allowance – never even got the £20 uplift in the first place.
The Tories claim the Universal Credit cut is necessary because it’s unaffordable. But the truth is that this is yet another ideological decision and another example of this Government’s skewed priorities. Remember, they wasted £22 billion of tax-payers money on a failed track and trace system. That sum would pay for the Universal Credit uplift several times over.
The Conservatives have handed billions of pounds of contracts to Tory donors for inadequate services. We all saw the shocking photos which emerged last week of wholly inadequate free school meal food parcels. The Tories keep lining their friends’ pockets instead of providing families with the help they need.
A future Labour government will scrap Universal Credit and replace it with a fairer, more effective benefits system. In the meantime, I will continue to hold the Government to account on this issue. And my team will carry on supporting constituents who are struggling because of the Tories’ dreadful benefits policies.