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Universal Credit uplift debate – playing politics or protecting a vital lifeline?

Citizens Advice Peterborough has called for the support of the Peterborough MP in keeping the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit.
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The uplift to Universal Credit is worth an additional £1,000 per year (Photo: Pexels)

In a statement on Monday, Citizens Advice Peterborough wrote: "The £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit has been a vital lifeline for many people we've helped during the pandemic at Citizens Advice Peterborough.

"That's why we're calling for the government to keep the lifeline – Paul Bristow, can we count on your support?"

The government temporarily increased the benefit to help families through the Covid crisis, but the uplift is due to expire in April, potentially hitting the incomes of six million families.

Labour has decided to use an opposition day debate in the Commons today, Monday January 18, to force a vote calling on the government not to end the uplift. This vote would not be binding on the government, but is being forced by Labour to demonstrate the strength of feeling over the cut in the Commons.

Labour’s motion states: "This House believes that the government should stop the planned cut in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit in April and give certainty today to the six million families for whom it is worth an extra £1,000 a year."

It has been reported that the Prime Minister told Conservatives in a WhatsApp message to miss the vote and accused Labour of "playing politics" with "legislatively vacuous opposition debates".

Mr Bristow is expected to abstain on the vote. On Sunday afternoon, he wrote on his social media pages: "This government increased Universal Credit by £20 to help families during the Covid-19 pandemic. Labour are demanding this is made permanent and trying to pretend a cut is planned. They are suggesting that there is a vote on this issue tomorrow.

"This isn't true. They are deliberately misleading vulnerable people and trying to play politics in a pandemic."

In a statement released by the Conservatives, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said Labour would "scrap Universal Credit" and "leave millions of people with an uncertain future".

"This Conservative Government has consistently stepped up to support low income families and the most vulnerable in society throughout this pandemic, and will continue to do so," she added.

The debate comes amid a warning from the Resolution Foundation that scrapping the £20 a week uplift will lead to a particularly tough 2021 for low-income households, whose incomes could fall by 4%.