Families face an anxious wait to find out whether Universal Credit will be cut in April (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
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The Tories risk becoming the “nasty party” once again if they refuse to extend a £20-a-week Universal Credit rise, a former Government adviser warned.
Boris Johnson is under mounting pressure to guarantee the hike will carry on after March for some 6million families.
The increase was announced last March to help the poorest families through the coronavirus crisis.
And many face an anxious wait to find out whether the £1,040-a-year uplift will continue, as Chancellor Rishi Sunak could wait until the March Budget to make his decision.
No10's ex-homelessness adviser Dame Louise Casey said that if the increase is withdrawn at the end of March as planned it would be "too punitive" for struggling households.
She told the BBC: "The Treasury need to step back and not feel this constant responsibility to close the books all the time and fight and fight and fight.
Dame Louise Casey warned stripping away the Universal Credit uplift was 'too punitive'
(Image: 10 Downing Street/AFP via Getty)
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Tories snub vote on Commons bid to halt cut to Universal Credit by £20 a week
"They need to step back and think if we really want to rebuild Britain, what type of economic policy do we need to put in place that will … not take the knees out from under people.
"To remove that £20 a week – it's too punitive, it's not the right thing to do, and I think they just go back to being the nasty party."
Theresa May was party chairwoman in 2002 when, addressing the Conservatives' autumn conference, she told activists: “You know what some people call us – the nasty party.”
The branding has come back to haunt Tory governments for nearly two decades.
Dame Louise said the country had been "torn to shreds" by the pandemic and called on ministers to draw up plans to deal with the fallout.
"The wounds it's inflicted on the country are far deeper and greater than anything I've ever seen in my lifetime in terms of ordinary folk having to claim Universal Credit, ordinary people having to turn to food banks, ordinary people becoming homeless," she said.
"I think we will need to have a big plan to deal with the wounds inflicted by this pandemic once everybody's vaccinated – and I think the Government needs to turn its attention to that now, and not leave it until the summer."
Labour leader Keir Starmer is urging the Government to scrap the planned cut
Her warning comes amid growing pressure on the Prime Minister to make the uplift permanent.
A symbolic vote on a Labour motion to scrap the cut passed by 278 votes to 0 – as Tories were order the snub the plans.
But Mr Johnson suffered a backbench rebellion, with six Tory MPs voting to keep the £20-a-week hike.
They were ex-Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb, Education Committee chairman Robert Halfon, Jason McCartney, Anne Marie Morris, Peter Aldous and Matthew Offord.
A number of "Red Wall" Tories, who seized Labour strongholds in the North and Midlands in the last election, are also calling for the planned cut to be postponed.