Boris Johnson storms ahead with Universal Credit cut and says he’s not planning to U-turn

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Cruel Boris Johnson is driving full steam ahead to cut six million Brits’ benefits and has no plans to U-turn, the Prime Minister declared tonight.

Mr Johnson let down charities, Labour and dozens of Tory MPs by dismissing fears the £20-a-week Universal Credit cut will plunge 400,000 children into poverty.

Benefit chiefs will start writing to claimants within weeks notifying them of the cut at the end of September.

They will get online messages, letters and phone calls as the Tories cruelly bin an £85-a-month Covid uplift, which was first brought in in April 2020.

Six ex-Tory work and pension secretaries have warned the cut would ”damage living standards, health and opportunities" .

Yet asked if he accepted removing the uplift will cause hardship to many people, the Prime Minister told the Liaison Committee: "I think that the best way forward is to get people into higher wage, higher skilled jobs.

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"That's the ambition of this Government and if you ask me to make a choice between more welfare or better, higher paid jobs, I'm going to go for better, higher paid jobs."

Despite 37% of claimants already having a job, he repeatedly insisted: “The answer is to get people into work”.

And he signalled he would not U-turn, saying: “Of course we keep everything under constant review but I’ve given you a pretty clear steer of what my instincts are.”

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds said: "The Government’s plans to cut Universal Credit will hit the lowest paid hardest and hurt our economic recovery.

"Six million families are set to lose £1000 a year while out of work support will be left at its lowest level in decades.

“There is near universal opposition to this cut, including from prominent Conservatives.

"It is time the Government saw sense, backed struggling families and cancelled their cut to Universal Credit.”

Torsten Bell, Chief Executive of the Resolution Foundation, said: “The decision to cut Universal Credit by £20 a week this October will cut the incomes of the poorest families by over 5% overnight.

“Taking a gamble with family finances and the strength of the recovery this Autumn is the wrong choice.”

Julia Faulconbridge, a member of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Clinical Psychology, said: “The government talks about ‘levelling up’ and ‘building back better’.

“But how can we level up when the government takes a conscious decision to weaken the social security system and cut families adrift from the support they so desperately need.

“This will do nothing but hit the most vulnerable in society.”

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The move also announced hours after state pensions were predicted to rise by 8% in April 2022 at an extra cost of £3bn.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey refused to say if she had lobbied the Treasury to cancel the £20-a-week cut – which a think tank has warned will plunge 400,000 children into relative poverty.

She told the Commons Work and Pensions Committee: “Ahead of October we will start communicating with the current claimants who receive the £20 to make them aware that that will be being phased out.

"And they will start to see an adjustment in their payments.

"I think it really kicks in largely in October, but it will start to kick in I think towards late September for some people.”

One Tory MP said many families don’t “need” the “handout”.

Andrew Rosindell – who bought a £289 TV for his constituency office on expenses last year – told BBC Politics Live: “I think this is a balance, it has to be judged very carefully, I think there are people that quite like getting the extra £20, but maybe they don’t need it.

“Because people are all different, different circumstances, so you can’t box everyone into the same category.

“The government has an overall responsibility to deal with the national finances as well and that’s what they must now do.”

But he was confronted on the BBC show by Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who said: “We’re taking £20 a week away from the people who can least afford to lose it.

“Nobody who’s on Universal Credit would be not in need of more money – what may be a cup of coffee and a nice slice of cake for some people, £20, is actually food for a week for other people.”

Conservative MP Nigel Mills told Ms Coffey: "It sounds like this is a 'dates not data' decision, that we've just chosen to end this at the end of September and not going to review that based on any data at all.

"'We'll just kind of assume it will all be OK' – that seems to be a pretty fair summary of what you're saying: 'We haven't got any data yet that you don't need this uplift, but we're going to take it away regardless because that's what we planned in the Budget '."

Universal Credit's standard allowance was raised from £318 to £410 a month for single people in April 2020 to help families through the pandemic.

After protests, the uplift was extended by six months to September – but the Treasury is refusing to extend it further.

That is despite ministers admitting they have made no assessment of how many children it will plunge into poverty.

Grilled by MPs, Ms Coffey admitted she was "not in any way assuming everything’s going to be okay" in October.

She insisted "we're not putting our heads in the sand", with work coaches doubling and a focus on the return to work.

But she admitted just over 40,000 young jobseekers have started on her flagship Kickstart work scheme – out of a hoped 250,000.

She said lockdowns had held back the scheme, saying: "I’m not going to pretend otherwise, I wish we’d had more starts."

DWP permanent secretary Peter Schofield admitted that while 230,000 jobs are being advertised, "I don’t think" they will all have people starting by December. He later insisted: "I'm absolutely determined to drive as close to it as I possibly can, if not exceed it".

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