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Parliamentary reporter @TrinderMatt
LABOUR forced a fresh debate on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s impending cut to universal credit today, warning that it will hit poorer working people the hardest.
During the opposition day debate in the Commons on declining living standards, the party said that plans to remove the £20-a-week uplift to the benefit from October 6 will plunge six million people into greater poverty.
Labour stressed that amid tax rises, soaring inflation and energy price increases, a “growing perfect storm” would leave millions struggling to make ends meet during a difficult forthcoming winter.
The warning came as a coalition of more than 40 charities predicted that the cut, amounting to a loss of more than £1,000 a year, would leave a generation of young people at risk of repeat homelessness.
In a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, organisations including Centrepoint and End Youth Homelessness said that young people in particular would face “impossible choices” between paying the bills and buying food if the reduction goes ahead.
Labour called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to keep the uplift and drop his “jobs tax hike” on working people — a reference to his plans to raise National Insurance contributions, supposedly to support the NHS and overhaul social care.
Mr Johnson also needed to address rising prices resulting from supply chain disruption caused by a shortage of workers and HGV drivers, the party said.
Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Bridget Phillipson said: “This perfect storm of prices up and incomes down isn’t a freak event. It’s a crisis that comes from fundamental failures over a decade of Conservative rule.
“Instead of changing direction and taking action, they have created an avoidable and unacceptable burden on working people.”
Centrepoint chief executive Seyi Obakin said that keeping the universal credit increase is “without doubt the best way” to keep vulnerable young people off the streets.
“This additional money has been a lifeline during the pandemic and removing it now, when a high number [of young people] are still looking for work or struggling to get sufficient hours, is the wrong move,” he stressed.
And Homeless Link chief executive Rick Henderson said the government’s plans to “level up” the country and end rough sleeping by 2024 would be undermined by benefit cuts.
“It will put extra financial pressure on low-income households, pushing all too many towards homelessness,” he added.
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