Minister resists calls to stop planned £20 cut to Universal Credit

1 September 2021, 08:30 | Updated: 2 September 2021, 06:16

The Universal Credit uplift will not be upheld, the government has confirmed
The Universal Credit uplift will not be upheld, the government has confirmed. Picture: Alamy
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A top Tory minister has resisted calls from politicians in all four UK nations to stop the planned £20 cut to Universal Credit (UC).

Work and Pensions Secretary Dr Thérèse Coffey said it was right for the government to focus on helping people back into work now the economy is recovering from the coronavirus crisis.

The £20-a-week uplift to UC payments was temporarily introduced to help people through the pandemic but is set to be phased out later in September.

Cross-party committees from Westminster, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Senedd and the Northern Ireland Assembly issued a letter to Dr Coffey requesting she make the higher rate of payment permanent.

Read more: Universal Credit uplift will end as it 'was always temporary' - Rishi Sunak

Read more: Boris Johnson won't intervene to keep £20 Universal Credit uplift

But in response, the Conservative minister said: "Now the economy has reopened, it is right that the government should focus on supporting people back into work and supporting those already employed to progress in their careers.

"Our ambition is to support two million people move into and progress in work through our comprehensive £33 billion Plan for Jobs."

Stephen Timms, Labour MP and chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said the government must "change course to prevent severe hardship for many thousands of families".

Read more: £20 UC increase 'must be extended to stop widespread poverty'

Read more: Tory MP accuses Labour of 'scaremongering' about Universal Credit

He continued: "The £20 cut will plunge hundreds of thousands, including children, into poverty. Instead, the government should extend the lifeline beyond September.

"The Secretary of State's dismissive response to our letter suggests that the government is still in denial about the impact of ending the increase."

Shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds said: "The government's £1,000 a year cut will be a hammer blow to millions of working families, hitting the lowest paid hardest and hurting our economic recovery.

"Time is running out for the Conservatives to see sense and cancel their cut to Universal Credit.

"Almost half of those hit by this cut are in work - to claim there is a choice between cancelling this cut and getting people back into work is simply wrong.

"Labour would maintain the uplift until we can replace Universal Credit with a fairer social security system."