Gordon Brown attacked Rishi Sunak and his decision to cut the £20-a-week Universal Credit uplift, branding it the “worst thing” he has done this year. Mr Brown explained the Chancellor was aware that living costs, such as electricity and food bills, would be increasing in the coming months but still chose to remove the uplift to the dismay of thousands claiming the benefit. The former Labour leader slammed the decision, stating the Government should be “compassionate and caring” during a crisis.
Appearing on LBC, Mr Brown was invited to talk about humanitarian issues across the world but looked at the situation closer to home with regards to inflation and rising living costs.
He told host Ben Kentish: “The worst thing that the Chancellor did during the course of this year is to take away the £20-a-week that was given to the six million poorest families in the country.
“And it’s caused at Christmas terrible distress amongst families unable to give the children Christmas presents or even sometimes give the children a proper Christmas meal.
“And so to have saved money at the expense of the poorest families in this country when he clearly knew that energy bills were rising food bills were rising…
“The cost of living was rising, was to treat the six million families and therefore many, many more children in a way that I don’t think is becoming of a government that should be compassionate and caring at a time of crisis.”
The £20-a-week Universal Credit uplift was introduced as a temporary measure back in April 2020 to help those claiming the benefit to weather some of the economic impacts from the pandemic.
However, the Conservatives announced they would remove the uplift towards the end of October this year despite outcry from Labour and those who were claiming.
Mr Sunak defended the decision, arguing the uplift was always a temporary measure, and introduced a reduction in the taper rate from 63p to 55p – potentially allowing UC claimants to have an extra £1,000 a year.
The taper rate lays out the amount which is lost from Universal Credit payments for every £1 earned over a certain threshold.
The move simply means claimants can now keep more of their Universal Credit if they are working.
The Conservatives have also invested large amounts of money into education programmes to encourage people to get into highly-skilled and well-paying jobs.
Mr Sunak announced in his Autumn Budget that over £500million will be invested to help people further their skills and to help young people into the workplace.
The BBC reported that a community centre in Everton which houses a food bank, baby bank and youth club to support those in poverty has seen an increase in those reliant on their services.
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Chief executive Gerard Woodhouse said around 70 people were using the food bank each week before the Universal Credit uplift was cut but that figure has now become the daily number.
He told the BBC: “It’s gone through the roof. We’re getting 50 to 100 referrals a day.
“Demand is unbelievable. The phone never stops.
“There are so many families out there – it’s not hundreds, it’s thousands that need help. Nothing’s coming down in price. And on top of that… the families have lost £20.
“It’s making our job a lot harder.”