Social Democratic and Labour Party Leader Colum Eastwood MP has said Tory welfare cuts risk a return to the darkest days of austerity.
He called on the British government to reverse the cut in Universal Credit and to provide increased support to families struggling to meet rising fuel costs and other bills.
Mr Eastwood was speaking ahead of the budget announcement by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday.
The Foyle MP said people are already struggling following a myriad of pressures, including the cut to Universal Credit, spiralling utility costs, the removal of the furlough scheme, the planned rise in national insurance and an overall increase in inflation.
Colum Eastwood MP said:
“Despite the cost of living crisis affecting people across the North and Britain this budget is set to take us back to the darkest days of Tory austerity which devastated communities and pushed vulnerable people to the brink.
“Many families are already hurtling towards a cliff edge after the cut of over £1,000 a year to their Universal Credit payment, the price of gas and electricity increasing dramatically and the end of the furlough scheme placing many jobs at risk.
“In the midst of all that this Tory Government intends to increase national insurance which will hit low-paid workers the hardest. These people worked tirelessly to keep society up and running during the coronavirus pandemic and this is how the government repays them.
“The cost of living crisis is only set to get worse and instead of protecting people the Tories are doing what they always do – looking after their friends and their own interests and leaving ordinary people to fend for themselves. The cut to Universal Credit should be reversed and direct support provided to families who face increased fuel costs this winter.
“Whatever money is secured for the North in this budget is likely to be far short of what’s needed. It will take much more than one Tory budget to undo the fourteen years non-delivery from Sinn Féin and the DUP which has left us with massive waiting lists for healthcare and housing, an education system in ruins and poverty that is up there with the worst in Europe.”