‘Don’t cut Universal Credit!’ – Unite appeals to Chancellor Sunak

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Unite members on a march against Tory austerity

MORE than half the country wants chancellor Rishi Sunak to continue permanently with the £20-a-week uplift in Universal Credit (UC) due to end in April 2021, according to a survey carried out for Unite the union, as millions face a descent into poverty.

The survey carried out by Survation revealed that 54 per cent of those polled wanted the £20 boost to Universal Credit, already claimed by six million people in the UK, to be extended beyond next April.

The survey shows that 40 per cent of Conservative supporters back the uplift, with 70 per cent of Labour supporters in favour of the increase. The widespread public mood to hold back ‘poverty’ is further reinforced with 51 per cent of those earning £40,000 and over annually also supportive of the rise being made permanent.

The survey follows hard on the heels of reports by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Fabian Society on the threats of destitution and poverty for millions of people, as the pandemic continues to take its toll on the UK economy and jobs.

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said that the UK had long had one of the weakest welfare safety nets in Europe which had been cruelly exposed by the pandemic – and it would be morally and financially repugnant to end the £20 uplift.

Today, Unite steps up its campaign to galvanise nationwide support, which includes asking councils to lobby Rishi Sunak and prime minister Boris Johnson demanding that the £20 increase to Universal Credit is made permanent and extended to claimants on legacy benefits.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: ‘If Rishi Sunak presses ahead with slashing Universal Credit in April, we will see state support fall to its lowest real-terms level since 1990-91, its lowest ever level relative to average earnings.

‘The basic level of out-of-work support prior to the March boost was – at just £73 a week (£3,800 a year) – less than half the absolute poverty line. People are being asked to get by on a tenner a day.

‘With savage and heart-breaking rising unemployment, some six million people in this country rely on Universal Credit. The £20 uplift may seem like pennies to the government, but it is literally the difference between turning the heating on or buying a warm coat for the kids for millions.

‘Snatching back this cash will be cruel in the extreme – and will certainly offend the voting public.

‘The IMF and World Bank both warn this is not the time for governments to attack the incomes of the poorest and that to do so would be to imperil recovery.

‘We are urging the chancellor to make Christmas for the poorest families by saying that the £20 uplift will stay beyond next April. Just do the decent thing and give them this small income security.

‘Survation’s survey provides further strong evidence as why we’re asking Unite members stand in solidarity and to call on councillors and others to join us in a coalition to force the government to retain the £20 increase, end the waiting time and extend payment to all legacy benefits.

‘What Covid-19 has cruelly exposed is the inadequacy of the current welfare system, one of the meanest in Europe, and the entrenched inequalities for some of the country’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged families.

‘The permanent uplift of £20-a-week would be a small step in easing the already immense burden of thousands of people struggling financially to pay for the essentials of life on a daily basis.’