Agenda item

Cuts to Universal Credit


Proposer: Councillor Bostan

         Seconder: Councillor Piper

“This Council recognises how hard last eighteen months have been for the people of Sandwell during the pandemic.  They have dealt with the uncertainty of a local economy put on hold, the hardship of tens of thousands of Sandwell’s residents either furloughed or out of work, and in some cases personal tragedy. Many are reliant on Universal Credit.


The announcement of this government's plans to cut Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit will be devastating for many people.


This Council deplores the fact that food bank usage in the borough is soaring, and recognises that the increase in fuel prices as we wind down into the colder months will add to pressures on household budgets. Emerging research by the Local Government Association has shown that this will force thousands of families into severe poverty.


This Council has endeavoured to shield residents from the full impact of the economic downturn in recent years, particularly in anticipation of the furlough scheme ending.


These measures include but are not limited to the following:


- An emergency food hub to feed our most vulnerable which supported thousands at the height of the pandemic.


- Free school meals for our most disadvantaged children and young people, a provision which continues despite the failure of the Conservative Government failed in its basic duty to feed Sandwell's children during school holidays amid the pandemic.


- 100 % council tax reduction scheme taking another significant burden off the shoulders of our most vulnerable, despite the huge financial challenges of ever-increasing cuts to our core grant from government.


Under Labour leadership, this Council has organised workfares across our towns supporting young people in to good jobs whilst working with our skills providers to help our residents affected by Covid-related  redundancies, re-skill and train into alternative forms of employment.


In Sandwell, as of July 2021, there were 42,104 people claiming universal tax credits of which, 15,876 (38%) of people were in employment. 1,396 are aged between 16-19 and Sandwell ranks the 7th highest with number of people claiming universal credit in all English metropolitan boroughs.

Research carried out by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University in a report called ‘Local indicators of child poverty after housing costs, 2019/20’ which covers the five-year period from 2014–15 to 2019–20 shows an increase of child poverty in the borough of around 7%.


Council recognises the limits of its abilities to mitigate the economic downturn for its most vulnerable residents and calls upon the government to step up to its duty to protect those most at risk.


Families most at risk of deepening poverty will not benefit from the increases because they are subject to the benefits cap. Migrants without recourse to public funds, many of whom work in industries hardest hit by the lockdown, have also been left out in the cold and millions of families reliant on the legacy benefit system did not receive the uplift channelled through Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit.


This Council resolves for the Leader of the Council to write to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, calling upon the Government to:


· Continue the £20-a-week increase to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit early contributions which was brought in to help households deal with the impact of COVID-19.


· Extend this to other benefit schemes to help residents who are most in financial need and have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.


· Support Councils through better funding to help them up skill and retrain residents at risk of unemployment as furlough ends.”