Oldham Council has joined a growing coalition backing the national #keepthelifeline campaign against the government’s planned welfare cuts. The £20 a week Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit uplift is due to end in October – a cut of £1,040 a year to many of Oldham’s lowest income households.
The decision was made at last night’s full council meeting where a motion supporting the campaign, proposed by Oldham’s Labour councillors, was passed. The motion calls on the Government to keep the uplift and extend it to people receiving ‘legacy benefits’ (such as Employment Support Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support).
The #keepthelifeline campaign is led by the Joseph Rowntree Trust and is supported by national and local charities, six former Conservative Work and Pension Secretaries and Leaders of the devolved nations to stop the biggest cut in social security since the welfare state was established.
Labour’s motion also called on the government to raise the minimum income floor level for self employed people claiming Universal Credit and removing the April 2021 freeze on Local Housing Allowance which means Housing Benefit does not cover the actual cost of rising rents paid by tenants.
Deputy Leader Councillor Abdul Jabbar, who proposed the motion, said ‘ Welfare Benefits have been squeezed due to Tory Austerity policy – this £20 uplift goes some way to restoring UC to the level intended when it was first introduced. 45,000 families in Oldham claim UC and Working Tax Credit. Over two thirds of these are families with children and many are in work but in low paid jobs. Removing this lifeline will plunge thousands of families further into poverty. Oldham’s families have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic. The Government should think again.’
Oldham’s Cabinet member for Housing, Councillor Hannah Roberts said ‘We are starting to see families approaching the Council because they fear losing their home because of the fallout from the pandemic. The Tories should make good on their manifesto commitment to abolish section 21 ‘no fault evictions’ as soon as possible. For too long, Housing Benefit has not kept up with rising rents and unfreezing the Local Housing Allowance will help people be able to afford to stay in their homes’.
The Labour Party is committed to keeping the uplift until Universal Credit can be replaced by a better social security system. Jonathan Reynolds, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary points out ‘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.”