SDLP Communities Spokesperson Mark H Durkan has said a failure from Sinn Féin Finance Minister Conor Murphy to reverse the £20 weekly cut to Universal Credit is a huge blow to people across the North.
Mr Durkan was speaking after Mr Murphy rejected a bid from party colleague and Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey for £55m to continue the uplift for the rest of the financial year.
The Foyle MLA said:
“The decision by Sinn Féin Finance Minister Conor Murphy not to reverse the £1,040 a year cut to Universal Credit will be devastating news for the around 134,000 people currently in receipt of this welfare across the North. SDLP Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon supported the bid for this money, but Sinn Féin and the DUP have gone over the heads of the rest of the Executive and rejected it.
“This decision will leave a wide range of people, from families to single parents, to workers significantly worse off at a time when we are seeing electricity and gas bills rising to record levels, essential goods are getting more expensive and national insurance contributions are set to go up. These people will now face difficult decisions about how they are going to put food on the table and heat their homes this winter.
“The British government had the chance to reverse this cut when they unveiled their budget earlier this week – they chose not to take it and now Conor Murphy has done the same thing, he’s failed to protect local people from this cruel cut despite having the power to do so. What’s even worse is expectations were raised when news emerged that a bid had been made by the Sinn Féin minister for this money, people believed that a reprieve was coming only to have their hopes dashed.
“I understand the financial constraints the Executive is under and it’s only right that our first priority should be health, but the mental and physical health of thousands of people will be affected by this cut as they struggle to get by. To keep this funding for the rest of the year would have required just £55m, less than 0.5% of the Executive budget and I hardly think that is an insurmountable sum to find for the Finance Minister.”