Chelmsford Lib Dem Leader in national call for Universal Credit boost
The Government is being lobbied to make permanent the £20 increase in Universal Credit, introduced in March 2020.
Chelmsford Council Leader Stephen Robinson has joined over 30 other Liberal Democrat Council Leaders in writing to the Government.
The letter follows a vote in Parliament held on Monday 18th January 2021, in which the government abstained. All Liberal Democrat MPs attended and voted in favour. The motion to increase Universal Credit was carried by 278 votes to nil.
Cllr Robinson said, "Covid19 has caused thousands of people across the country to struggle. The uplift in Universal Credit has been a lifeline to them. Britain should increase support to unemployed people and their families at this time, not reduce it. The Government should listen to what Parliament overwhelmingly told them on 18th January and make this £20 a week uplift permanent.
Cllr Ruth Dombey OBE, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat LGA Group, added:
"Increasing benefits at this time is the right thing to do, as this is money which will be spent in local businesses and shops across the country, helping to support our high streets and keeping millions of people in jobs. The Conservative government needs to rethink its intention to end this uplift in April and do the right thing in supporting people who have suffered financial hardship as a result of the pandemic, through no fault of their own".
Text of the letter
We are writing to you regarding the basic rate for Universal Credit and the impact it has on thousands of people across the country who have experienced extreme hardship since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.
Hundreds of thousands of the residents we serve claim and rely on Universal Credit to pay for day-to-day essentials including food, clothing and utilities. In a year when those families and individuals on the lowest incomes have been impacted the most by the months of restrictions, home-schooling and in some cases loss of income and severe isolation, this increase was significant and very welcome by those it helped. The impact of the £20 a week increase reflects the reality that the standard level of benefits was simply not enough and remain inadequate to protect the increasing number of households relying on them as the pandemic rolls on.
Following the vote in Parliament on Monday 18th January 2021, we are asking you to maintain the Universal Credit uplift and permanently increase the basic rate by £20 per week - the level received by claimants since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Ending this increase would see the level of unemployment support fall to its lowest real-terms level since 1990-91, and its lowest ever relative to average earnings. Indeed, the basic level of out-of-work support prior to the March boost was - at £74 a week (£3,800 a year) - less than half the absolute poverty line.(1)
At a time when local economies and independent shops are taking a hit from the on-going restrictions on the high-street, the increase in benefit levels has also supported local businesses and local jobs during the pandemic and will continue to do so as people are more mindful to shop local and support their communities.
As Liberal Democrat leaders and deputy leaders representing councils across the country, we ask you to reconsider ending this uplift in April 2021 and instead make the £20 increase to Universal Credit permanent.