SDLP Belfast councillor Brian Heading has called on Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey and Finance Minister Conor Murphy to find the funding to continue the £20 Universal Credit uplift.
It comes after he met with Lord Mayor of Belfast Kate Nicholl and trade union representatives on Thursday to discuss a strategy to retain the uplift.
SDLP Belfast councillor @CllrHeadingSDLP has called on Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey and Finance Minister Conor Murphy to find the funding to continue the £20 Universal Credit uplift to protect people who are struggling. pic.twitter.com/hYk0zrHwT3— Social Democratic and Labour Party (@SDLPlive) September 16, 2021
Councillor Heading said:
“The message from today’s meeting was unequivocal, we need to retain this uplift to stop forcing more people into poverty and into the arms of money lenders. Desperate people in our communities are often left with nowhere to turn as a result of increasing financial pressures and removing this uplift will only make things worse. I requested this meeting because I believe we all need to pull together, politicians, trade unions, businesses and other stakeholders to make the case to retain this uplift.
“The British Government have shown they have no intention of reversing their cruel and short-sighted decision so we need to take action ourselves. Our welfare powers are devolved and Sinn Féin Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey needs to step in and secure this funding. Her party colleague Conor Murphy controls the Executive purse strings and he must find the £55.5m needed to continue the uplift for the rest of the financial year.
“People in Belfast and across the North are already experiencing huge levels of poverty and the removal of this uplift will only make things worse. More and more people are relying on food banks as utility and living costs rise. The decision to remove £20 a week from people while giving them a £100 high street voucher makes little sense. All this money goes back into the economy so surely it would serve the same purpose to retain this uplift so people have more income to spend? Removing this money while we attempt to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic will put businesses and jobs at risk.
"While it makes a difference our struggling families really need much more than £20 a week. We need to see a strategy from Minister Hargey to tackle the North’s shameful poverty levels which remain among the worst in Europe.”