Universal Credit – what do these Tory Government changes mean for residents of Egremont, Poulton, Seacombe & Somerville – the old villages comprising the electoral ward of Seacombe?

5th October, 2017

Casework has never been so heavy for Labour Councillors. A great part of it is driven by low incomes and housing problems.

Cllrs Chris Jones and Paul Stuart will take a motion to Council condemning the government’s UC plans because they are crafted to transfer, onto to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, the burden of the bank-driven world debt crisis of 2008. Since publishing the post below, on 22nd September, it has become clear that our worst fears for the effects of misnamed “Universal Credit” are going to be realised unless the government can come up with a virtual miracle of revision.

UNIVERSAL CREDIT

Council condemns the government’s misnamed “Universal Credit” scheme as an extension of past Tory/LibDem and current Tory policies crafted to shift to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society the burden of the bank-driven world debt crisis of 2008.

Further, Council calls on the government to listen to the people, listen to members of the Parliamentary Conservative Party who see their votes slipping away, and abandon its Universal Credit proposals.

Universal credit will, for people in or out of work, conflate or replace most of the discrete benefits to which they are now entitled. The LGA shows an expectation of average weekly income cuts of £11.18 from the change to UC but with potentially devastating immediate income gaps of several weeks for the very neediest. These benefits can include those for housing, child care, disability, limited capability for work, caring, etc.

Council notes that following a recent DWP presentation, explaining how the shift from the previous arrangements will be put into effect, Councillors who attended became aware that the government’s arrangements are too incompetently orchestrated to avoid severe financial distress amongst Wirral’s most vulnerable and neediest individuals, families and children.

As the change to UC is intended to begin its Wirral “roll out” during November there are well founded fears that it will precipitate a desperately hungry Christmas-time for many already low-income Wirral residents, negating the very spirit of the Christmas message and forcing more people to rely on foodbanks.

Whilst declaring profound opposition to the seemingly vindictive and cruel speed of the change to UC, Council also observes that the measure is consistent with seamless continuation, by the present Tory government, of the preceding ConDem collaboration government’s neoliberal austerity measures.

Finally, Council notes that the Leader of the Conservative Group has already shown his willingness to make a stand against his own government when he believes they are wrong by voting against the hated Bedroom Tax. Council calls on Councillor Lewis to show similar resolve and oppose Universal Credit.

Proposed by: Councillor Chris Jones
Seconded by: Councillor Paul Stuart

The post below was published on September 22nd 2017

This note does not begin with a rhetorical denunciation of the Tory Government’s core policy – which makes the most vulnerable pay for the bankers’ and hedge-fund gamblers’ world financial crash of 2007/8. Our position on that is already well known from earlier posts (and from www.seacombelabour.co.uk ).

Residents are coming to councillors, Adrian, Chris & Paul for advice

Our purpose, here, confines to explaining the dire, and still developing, position, as we understand it, for many residents of our Seacombe electoral ward in the weeks ahead.

For direct help in individual cases go to:
“AskUs Wirral” on 0300 330 0111
Or go to www.askuswirral.org.uk

What does “Universal Credit” mean? It is a single monthly payment for people in or out of work – replacing most of the separate benefits they might be getting now. These can include housing, children, child care costs, disability, limited capability for work, caring, etc and there will be qualifying criteria for all these categories.

Who will be affected? Anyone who claims any of the above benefits will be affected in some way. As the Government’s change to “Universal credit” begins to be “rolled out”, during November, there are fears that it could herald a difficult time over Christmas for many already low-income Wallasey residents. Following a (DWP) seminar, explaining how the shift from the previous arrangements will be put into effect, a number of Labour Councillors came away with deep concerns about whether the government’s arrangements are sufficiently robust to avoid real distress.

Not everything may yet, at the time of writing, be entirely clear. However, it appears that when applicants are “migrated over”, or new applications are made, for “Universal Credit” there is to be a 7-day suspension of the claims – known as “waiting days”. They then enter an “assessment phase” that will start on day 8 of the claim – and payments will be calculated from that date.

Starting on the 8th day following an application, we understand the assessment phase can last as long as a month. “Universal Credit” is then, it seems, to be assessed and paid in arrears, monthly, in a single payment. This is a matter for worry to potential claimants as, if fears are correct, there is concern that they may in some circumstances be waiting for 6-8 weeks, or even longer. The change here in Wirral will start next month amid very real fears that many residents, and families, will face serious financial difficulties.

However, even as the government argues that its “austerity” measures are needed to “help people back into work” research published in the “Guardian” reveals that 8.3 million people in the UK are now facing mounting debt crises as they struggle to borrow to pay off existing debts. Whilst the government’s ministers constantly try to argue that the economy is recovering, the Guardian quotes The Chief Financial Regulator’s warning that personal debts are rising at alarming rates as people borrow to feed their families as austerity continues to bite ever harder. .

“Austerity Britain” by by David Kynaston narrates in contemporary voices how the victorious 1945 Labour Government shaped the political, economic, and social landscape for three decades. And then came the governments of Macmillan and Thatcher – and the great “unwinding” began. Labour, with its present Socialist leadership is ready to rebuild all over again.

How very differently Labour Governments handled massive debt crises in far harder times than these! After Hitler’s war when the relative debt burden was far. far, greater than now, Labour also recognised austerity – but instead of draining the cost from the poorest people Labour re-built the UK’s manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries, revolutionised education, and introduced the National Health Service – in the teeth of bitter Tory opposition.

In that age of war-forced austerity the country was rebuilt for the people. In this age of banker-forced austerity the poorest and most vulnerable are fleeced to ensure tax benefits for the very rich and continuing riches for the very bankers and financiers whose gambling precipitated it.

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Comments

  1. Paul Brooks says:

    Austerity is a political choice which is being used as a stick – a large one – to hit the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Labour is fighting back – at last – but unity within our party is key. We should all get behind Jeremy and get this desperate Tory party out of government. Every day they are in power continues the desperation for survival for many people and families all across the country.

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