Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been urged by the SNP government in Scotland to reconsider plans to cut Universal Credit (UC) by £1040 from October, as six former Tory Work and Pensions Secretaries come out in favour of scrapping the cut.
In a letter to the Chancellor, the former Work and Pension Secretaries said: “The UC uplift has rightly been allocated into the standard allowance of UC as many have not been able to work and it has been right to protect people whilst they cannot work.
“But as the economy reopens, and the Government re-evaluates where it has been spending money, we ask that the current funding for individuals in the Universal Credit envelope be kept at the current level.”
Former DWP boss Iain Duncan Smith, who is widely aknowledged as being one of the main architects of the Universal Credit system, said making the £20 a week uplift permanent “should be at the heart of what makes us Conservatives.”
He added: “Universal Credit has held up well as a system for distributing money to those who need it, and the extra £20 added to has been essential in allowing people to live with dignity.
“Today all six former Conservative secretaries of state for work and pensions have written with one voice to urge the Chancellor to protect the extra money he has invested in Universal Credit.
“A failure to act would mean not grasping this opportunity to invest in a future with more work and less poverty and would damage living standards, health and opportunities for some of the families that need our support most as we emerge from the pandemic.”
Commenting, SNP MP David Linden said it was essential the Chancellor completely scraps the planned cuts, warning the Tory government would “push millions of families into poverty and crisis” if they go ahead.
The Scottish Work and Pensions spokesperson said household incomes have “already been hammered by a decade of Tory austerity cuts”, and the UK government must focus on boosting incomes not slashing them.
A report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), published in May, found the UK’s relative poverty rate among working households has already hit a record high this century of 17.4 per cent – with one in six working households now languishing in poverty.
Separately, the Children’s Commissioner for Scotland has warned Tory plans to cut Universal Credit by £20 a week would be “catastrophic” for families and would “effectively knock out the benefits that the Scottish Child Payment brings”.
Earlier today, SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford MP called for the Chancellor to publish an impact assessment of the effect the planned Tory cuts to Universal Credit would have on household incomes and levels of poverty and inequality across the UK.
SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson David Linden MP said: “Tory plans to cut Universal Credit payments by £1040 would be devastating for millions of families, many of whom are already struggling to get by.
“There must be an urgent U-turn on these damaging plans, which would push families further into poverty and crisis at the worst possible time.”
He added: “Household incomes have already been hammered by a decade of Tory austerity cuts, with in-work poverty rising to record levels on Boris Johnson’s watch.
“While the SNP government is putting money in people’s pockets, with progressive policies like the Scottish Child Payment, the Tories are taking it away again with regressive cuts that threaten to wipe away the progress we are making in tackling poverty.”