Tax hikes and benefit cuts will push people further into poverty and debt, says Burnley Labour leader
Burnley Labour leader Afrasiab Anwar fears people could be forced to choose between heating and eating if plans to cut Universal Credit go ahead.
People claiming Universal Credit are due to lose their £20 a week Covid uplift, introduced by the government during lockdown, from October.
If plans go ahead, the cut – equivalent to £1,040 a year – will hit 12,776 people in Burnley (figures as of May).
It comes alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement last week that all employees, employers and the self-employed will face a 1.25 percentage point in National Insurance contributions from April 2022.
The money will fund a three-year £36bn package to help clear the NHS treatment backlog caused by Covid, and reform social care.
It means that people on a £20,000 salary now paying £1,251 a year will pay £130 extra. Those earning £50,000 will see an annual increase of £505.
Speaking to the Express, Coun. Anwar said: "I am very concerned at the government decision to increase National Insurance to pay for social care and what this will mean for families in Burnley and Padiham.
"It is proof if any was ever needed that the government's levelling up agenda is nothing more than a soundbite.
"The government line that this is only a 1% increase is in actual fact a 10% increase.
"Burnley low paid workers will be paying 10% more for social care so that house owners in the South East can keep the profits from their houses that are worth ten times more than houses in Burnley.
"The government had a choice between taxing those that can afford it or taxing working people, sadly they chose the latter.
"How a Burnley MP (representing a constituency ranked 11th most deprived area in the country according to the index of multiple deprivation with over 12,000 Universal Credit claimants, many of whom are from working families) can vote in favour of this is beyond me.
"Universal Credit claimants are already bracing themselves for a loss of income.
"Add to this the end of furlough, increasing fuel prices and an unpredictable job market with winter fast approaching – for those most in need this could mean choosing between heating and eating.
"Twenty pounds a week might not sound much to those who can afford it but those who can't I fear will be pushed further into poverty and debt.
"Throughout the past 18 months the voluntary, community and faith sector have stepped up and supported those who were struggling.
"The pandemic is not over and this decision will mean more people having to use foodbanks and having to ask for help.
"The government need to take responsibility for this not the voluntary sector, especially when you consider the number of Universal Credit claimants in Burnley have risen sevenfold since May 2017."