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.
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:
- Thanet Food Support – 07912 793980 (covering Margate & Ramsgate)
- Margate Independent Food Bank – Union Church, Union Row, Margate (covering Margate)
- Salvation Army Margate – 01843 298260
- Salvation Army Ramsgate – 07900 497326 (collection & delivery, Tuesday & Friday 10am-12pm)
- Hot Meals Now – 07930 411967 (covering whole of Thanet)
- Pie Factory Music – 01843 596777 (collection for whole of Thanet, delivery for Ramsgate)
- Global Generation – 01843 226232 (covering whole of Thanet)
Organisations offering food collection
- Millmead Children’s Centre – 01843 280555 (covering Margate)
- St Paul’s Church – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 10:30am-12pm (covering Margate)
- St Austin’s & St Gregory’s Food Bank – 01843 220825 (covering Margate)
- Birchington Baptist Church – Referral needed (covering whole of Thanet)
- Newington Community Centre – Monday to Thursday 10:30am-2:30pm (covering Ramsgate)
- Our Kitchen food clubs in Margate and Ramsgate
Organisations offering shopping services
- Age UK – 01843 223881 (covering whole of Thanet)
- Thanet Community Transport Association – 01843 602030 (covering whole of Thanet)
- Seniors Helping Seniors – 01843 606991 (covering whole of Thanet)