Warning that thousands face poverty trap in Preston if £20 a week Universal Credit uplift is scrapped this month
The removal of the £20 a week uplift in Universal Credit could put more hard-hit Preston families below the breadline, a city councillor has warned.
And Coun John Browne will urge the city council next week to press local MP's to lobby the Government for a last-minute U-turn over the issue.
Coun Browne has tabled a notice of motion for Thursday's city council meeting asking members to step up the pressure for a rethink after shock figures emerged showing the number of Universal Credit claimants in Preston has almost doubled during the Covid pandemic.
The Labour member will call on the council to write to MP's Sir Mark Hendrick, Ben Wallace and Mark Menzies calling on them to approach the Work and Pensions Secretary directly and tell her of the "negative effect removal of the uplift will have on Preston families."
In his notice of motion he says data from the Department of Work and Pensions in May this year showed there were 15,558 Universal Credit claimants in Preston - almost double the number before the pandemic in February 2020 of 8,205.
He adds that the percentage of people registered as unemployed in the city also rose from 3.7 per cent in February this year to 5.8 per cent in August.
The motion to be debated says: "This Council recognises the introduction of the £20 weekly uplift by the Chancellor was introduced to help cope with the worst effects of the pandemic.
"This council questions why this vital uplift is to be removed this October when Preston, along with many other communities, have experienced lower income individuals and families disproportionately affected by the pandemic including many in our BAME communities.
"Further, with rising fuel costs and the removal of this UC uplift, we shall see more individuals and families in Preston struggling, with a rise in poverty levels and children being affected the most."
The motion urges the local MP's to take the issue up directly with Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey "highlighting the negative effect removal of the Universal Credit uplift will have on Preston families especially when structural inequalities were a major issue during the pandemic."
He asks them to call on Ms Coffey "to reconsider and retain the £20 per week uplift in Universal Credit permanently as part of the government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda."
And he urges the city council to "continue its excellent work tackling food poverty, promoting financial inclusion and increasing the supply of affordable housing to help mitigate the effects of any changes to UC for the least well off in Preston."
He is also calling on the authority to conduct an assessment of the effects of the Universal Credit changes "and ensure this will inform ongoing financial inclusion and anti-poverty work in Preston."