Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser
Leader’s universal credit concerns
North Lanarkshire Council’s leader claims the recent reduction in universal credit“will result in more people living in poverty”in the area – and says a ministerial response to his letter on the issue was “very disappointing”.
Jim Logue wrote to the UK Government last month about the impact of removing the £20 per week uplift which had first been put in place early in the Covid pandemic and asking for it to be reconsidered.
Fellow Lanarkshire politicians including MSPS Neil Gray and Richard Leonard, as well as MPS Anum Qaisar-javed and Steven Bonnar, have also criticised the reduction to the benefit, which took effect last month.
Councillor Logue had written to work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey highlighting “the detrimental impact this will have on people living on the lowest incomes in our communities” and asking that “those who are dependent upon this benefit are not plunged into further poverty and potential debt”.
He said: “This £1040 annual cut will have a damaging impact on over 34,000 residents in North Lanarkshire who are dependent upon universal credit as either a sole source of income or to top up low wages.
“We had over 17,500 children living in poverty in North Lanarkshire pre-pandemic; this figure will rise due to the impact of Covid-19 on our communities.
“This cut will be damaging to our communities who are facing lower incomes and higher costs of living and will result in more people and children living in poverty, facing a bleak winter with decisions such as ‘heat or eat’ to be made.”
He received a reply from welfare delivery minister David Rutley stating that the £20 was a “temporary uplift as part of a Covid support package” which had been extended from its originally-chosen end point until last month.
Mr Rutley wrote: “The government has always been clear that the £20 increase was a temporary measure to support households affected by the economic shock of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“There have been significant positive developments in the public health situation since the uplift was first introduced with the success of the vaccine rollout.
“Now the economy is reopening and as we continue to progress with our recovery, our focus is on helping people to prepare for, get into and progress in work.”
The minister also added that “food insecurity is an issue we take seriously” and added that surveys including questions on foodbank use are being carried out and will help give “a better understanding of the lived experiences of families”.
Councillor Logue said: “The response is disappointing to say the least and will do nothing to mitigate the direct impact this decision will have on the 34,000 residents and 17,500 children who live in North Lanarkshire who live in poverty.
“We will do all we can to provide support people who need it most – for example, through our Club 365 programme and our financial inclusion team.
“However, the cut comes at a time when people are facing an increase in national insurance contributions, an increase in the cost of living and fuel prices.
“We cannot get away from the inescapable truth which is that this cut to people’s incomes will result in more people living in poverty.”