The Independent

Benefit cut set to hit one in four families in major cities

- ANDREW WOODCOCK

Almost a quarter of families in England’s biggest cities are facing a £1,000-a-year hit to their incomes at the end of this month due to Boris Johnson’s plan to cut universal credit payments, mayors from some of the country’s major urban areas have

warned. The eight Labour metro mayors – representi­ng areas including London, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, the West of England and West and South Yorkshire – wrote a joint letter to the prime minister urging him to cancel the removal of the £20a-week UC “uplift” introduced at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The letter came a day before a House of Commons debate set to be held later today, which was called by the Labour party in an effort to preserve the uplift. It warned that the benefit cut would affect nearly 2 million families in the areas the mayors represent, including many people in low-paid employment as well as thousands of key workers who helped Britain through the pandemic. And it said that the blow to household incomes would take more than £2bn out of local economies at a time when cities are struggling to rebuild from the effects of lockdown.

Many of those affected will also face a financial hit from the prime minister’s 1.25 percentage point rise in national insurance contributi­ons, which are paid by workers earning as little as £9,500 a year.

The mayors – including London’s Sadiq Khan and Greater Manchester’s Andy Burnham – warned Mr Johnson: “Time is running out for your government to cancel this cut and the devastatin­g consequenc­es it will bring. On behalf of the millions of families we represent, we implore all MPs to do the right thing and vote next week to keep the uplift in place.”

The letter – also signed by Tracy Brabin of West Yorkshire, Jamie Driscoll of the North of Tyne, Dan Jarvis of South Yorkshire, Nik Johnson of Cambridges­hire and Peterborou­gh, Dan Norris of the West of England and Steve Rotheram of the Liverpool City region – described the removal of the £20 top-up payment on 6 October as “the biggest overnight cut to social security in the history of our social security system”. And it warned that the cut would “disproport­ionately” affect urban areas.

It cited new analysis by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, showing that some 23 per cent of families in the mayoral areas will lose out from the UC cut – rising to 26 per cent in Greater

Manchester and 25 per cent in the Liverpool City region and West Yorkshire. Some 931,950 families in London, 312,290 in Greater Manchester and 242,340 in West Yorkshire will lose the £1,040-a-year extra payment, the research found.

“Many families have spent the last 18 months worried about how they will make ends meet – they simply cannot shoulder this cut,” the mayors told Mr Johnson. “We have all been contacted by people telling us that this £20 is what enables them to keep food on the table at the end of the week. We cannot simply stand by and allow your government to proceed with a cut that will push hundreds of thousands more of our constituen­ts into poverty and debt.”

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 ?? (Getty/iStock) ?? Regiona l mayors have urged Boris Johnson to preserve the universa l credit up l ift
(Getty/iStock) Regiona l mayors have urged Boris Johnson to preserve the universa l credit up l ift
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