Thanet council to urge government to extend £20pw ‘uplift’ to Universal Credit to help struggling residents

Thanet council says ending the uplift will mean families being 'cold and hungry'

Thanet council leader Rick Everitt is to write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to urge him to retain the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit when the country’s budget is announced on March 3.

Proposals to end the extra payment, which was brought in last March in response to the pandemic, will affect some 18,504 claimants in Thanet, according to Kent County Council data.

A further estimated 3,300 will be hit by the same cut to Working Tax Credits although some of these may have moved to UC now.

The increase meant for a single Universal Credit claimant (aged 25 or over), the standard allowance went from £317.82 to £409.89 per month. The temporary measure was confirmed to last for one-year and is due to come to an end on April 6.

But, with the pandemic continuing and the country currently in lockdown, there have been calls to postpone the reversal of the benefit increase.

If it goes ahead families receiving UC and the working tax benefit will see incomes reduced by around £1,040 for the year.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think tank has urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to keep the £20-a-week uplift. This would cost around £6.5bn

However, the Chancellor is said to be reluctant to extend the payments although the increase may be retained for a short period.

A motion being put forward by Cllr Rick Everitt and a meeting of Thanet’s full council on February 25 says: “Thanet has the highest number of universal credit claimants in Kent – more than 18,000, nearly a quarter of the eligible population and an increase of almost two-thirds over the last year due to the impacts of COVID-19 on our local economy.

“A third of these residents are in work, but recorded unemployment is up 80% since March 2020 and now afflicts one in ten of the working age population. One in eight Thanet households is in fuel poverty.

“Last March, the chancellor announced a £20 per week uplift to universal credit and working tax credit for 2020/21. This has been a vital lifeline to thousands of families in Thanet and provided an eight-figure cash injection to their collective spending power, helping them feed their children, heat their homes and support local business.

“It has helped contain the severe pressure on the voluntary sector, including local food banks. The estimated cost of the uplift is around 2% of the extra government spending nationally triggered by COVID-19, and even after it is taken into account UK benefit payments are among the lowest in Europe.

“No part of Kent will suffer more detriment than Thanet if this uplift is taken away. Nowhere in Kent will more children suffer, more families go cold and hungry, and more local businesses lose out. The lives of residents already struggling to manage will be made harder.

“This council will speak up for those in urgent need. It calls on both Thanet’s MPs to do the same. Council urges the chancellor to retain the £20 uplift in his budget and not turn his back on the poorest members of our community.”

A third of Thanet UC claimants are in work

KCC data (up to October 2020) shows that 22.5% of the over 16 population in Thanet is currently claiming UC and around a third of those claimants – some 6,072- are in work.

Universal Credit is a payment to help with living costs for those on a low income or who are out of work. It can be claimed if the claimant is employed but they have a low income. Many people have seen their income reduce due to coronavirus measures. Many may have been furloughed and their income fallen to 80% of their usual wage.

Claimants may have had working hours reduced or have lost their jobs, or have been unable to work.

Sir Roger Gale

North Thanet Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale says he would also like the uplifted payments to continue. He said: “I have already expressed to Treasury Ministers my view that give the original justification for the uplift – which was always intended to be temporary and has already been extended – it should be extended further to recognise the ongoing effects of the pandemic upon incomes.”

What is the Budget?

The Budget, or Financial Statement, is a statement made to the House of Commons by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the nation’s finances and the Government’s proposals for changes to taxation. The Budget also includes forecasts for the economy by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

Universal Credit increases predicted for 2021 budget

Single and aged under 25, standard allowance will rise from £256.05 to £257.33 – lower than the 2020 amount of £342.72, which includes the uplift

Single and aged 25 or over, standard allowance will rise from £323.22 to £324.84, lower than the 2020uplifted  amount of £409.89

Joint claimants both under 25, standard allowance will rise from £401.92 to £403.93 -2020 amount was £488.59

Joint claimants where one or both are 25 or over, standard allowance will rise from £507.37 to £509.91 – 2020 amount with uplift was £594.04.

If you are struggling

The KentTogether helpline offers support with food, collection of medication and prescriptions and other urgent needs during the pandemic, 24 hours a day. You can get help by visiting www.kent.gov.uk/kenttogether  or calling 03000 41 92 92.

Organisations offering food delivery:

Organisations offering food collection

Organisations offering shopping services

Other services

  • Citizens Advice – 0344 411 1444 CA is offering services via telephone, email, web chat and video chat.
  • GRASS Cliftonville – 01622 851200 (Offers a voucher scheme to support eligible families with shopping. Must live in Cliftonville West to apply)

4 Comments

  1. Well done to Rick Everett and Sir Roger.

    We are a country found on Christian principles which is to look after the less well off.

    Some still stand in front of a Union Jack spouting how they care to capture your vote…… then vote to stop free school meals for hungry children.

  2. What about Craig Mackinlay MP for Thanet South? What did he propose with these extra payments for his constituents in need who are claiming UC? He has one of the highest amounts of needy residents among his constituency but he keeps very quiet on this matter. It would be interesting to hear if he also agrees to keep those UC payments going until the pandemic comes to an end.

  3. Excellent initiative! We need as much government money coming into Thanet as possible. The “extra” £20 may not sound much but it makes the crucial difference for the households that receive it.
    We should remember that those on a low income, when getting something extra, almost always spend the cash locally, in local shops etc.
    But if you give loads of money to the wealthy(who mostly don’t live round here)through tax cuts, we will see none of it in Thanet as the wealthy have a world in which to spend it. Though they mostly just use the money to buy back their own shares so that the share price goes up, making them even richer “on paper”.
    If the government really wanted to “level-up” the country, they would arrange for more wealth to go to the poorest, not keep giving their rich chums loads of money as private contracts to provide Covid tests or protective equipment that other people have already made!

  4. Surely this isn’t the same Thanet Council who have been paying all their staff, including their highly paid management team, a bonus of £20+ a month since last year just to work from home ?

    Surely they wouldn’t exhibit such double standards to position themselves firmly on the side of the poorer members of our community whilst giving a monthly bonus to all their staff, including those earning over £100,000 a year for the “inconvenience” of having to work from home ?

    Surely the elected members knew about this and were involved in making the decision or was it just something the senior managers voted in for themselves ?

    Surely this money could have been better spent on the most disadvantaged members of the community rather than lining the pockets of those who were actually saving money on travel costs by not having to come into the office ?

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