Council backs #keepthelifeline campaign

Date published: 10 September 2021

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 the recent 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 (above), added: "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.

Meanwhile, Oldham West and Royton MP Jim McMahon (below) has also weighed into the debate.

Reacting to the news in the Financial Times yesterday 'that the Government’s own analysis shows that the planned £20 a week cut to Universal Credit next month will cause a rise in poverty, homelessness and foodbank usage', Mr McMahon said: “The Government knows that making the biggest overnight cut to social security would be wrong for families and wrong for our economy.

"The Government is well aware of how careless this cut would be, it would lead to families struggling to put food on the table, an increase in foodbank usage, poverty levels rising, and a number of people made homeless as a result.

“And yet they are determined to press ahead and remove what has become a vital lifeline for many families whilst we’re still dealing with so much economic uncertainty as furlough ends soon too.

"This just isn’t good enough for the 16,000 families across Chadderton, Oldham and Royton who have come to rely on the uplift.

“We know that the £20 uplift is more often than not spent in local shops and on our high-streets, so this cut would mean that over £17m would be taken out of our local economy at a time when it needs every penny to survive.

“Labour will continue to stand up for the low-income families who will be devastated as a result of this cut and will do everything we can to try and cancel the cut.”

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