Former Labour PM Gordon Brown demanded cost-of-living help for the poorest households and warned that ‘no-one who cares about what’s happening to millions of children can walk by on the other side’
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown today calls for a crusade to restore the £20-a-week Universal Credit boost as hard-up families battle the cost-of-living crisis.
The ex-Labour leader, who was Chancellor for a decade, demands a campaign to bolster the budgets of the poorest households.
But the millionaire Tory axed the lifeline last October – weeks before the cost-of-living disaster began to hit Britain.
Boris Johnson told the Cabinet on Tuesday that there were “no easy answers” to the crisis.
Mr Sunak’s Spring Statement mini-Budget was blasted last week for offering little extra help to millions of households as inflation is tipped to rocket beyond 8%, energy bills are set to soar by 54% from Friday(APR 1), along with the 1.25% National Insurance hike, while council tax climbs by an average 3%.
Yet benefits are due to rise by just 3.1% – even though inflation is currently double that at 6.2%.
Writing exclusively for the Mirror, Mr Brown said: “A campaign has to be mounted with churches and faith groups, charities, foundations, metro mayors, local authority leaders and the devolved administrations to not just restore the lost £20 in Universal Credit and offer more direct heating help, but – as anti-poverty groups propose – to raise benefits this year by the real rate of inflation – 8%.
“No-one who cares about what’s happening to millions of children can walk by on the other side.”
Backing the call, Child Poverty Action Group chief executive Alison Garnham said: “The Chancellor’s failure to bring benefits in line with inflation means families are facing a big real-terms income cut just as costs spiral – and only six months after the £20 Universal Credit cut.
“Family budgets are down to the bone.
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“Unless the Government steps in now and increases benefits by 8% to match inflation, many more families will fall into poverty with disastrous consequences for the children concerned.”
Peter Tutton, head of policy at debt charity StepChange, said: “Universal Credit is one piece of a larger puzzle; before the Spring Statement, we said the Government needed to uprate benefits by at least 7%, offer stronger energy bill support and stop debt collection on energy debt and council tax arrears causing further hardship.
“Those things haven’t happened yet, so government should urgently revisit and upgrade the support available.
“Whatever the mechanism, levers must be pulled across all government departments to ensure this crisis does not lead to millions of people falling into debt and destitution.”
The Church of England’s Bishop of Durham Paul Butler also backed the ex-PM’s call.
He said: “Hundreds of thousands of low income families experienced an overnight cut in their incomes last autumn when the £20 uplift on Universal Credit was removed.
“We know that this has come at the worst possible time as they face rising inflation and a cost-of-living crisis.
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“Many have no savings or other income and no room to ‘tighten the belt’.
“Restoring the £20 uplift in Universal Credit is the right and proper thing to do and would be of significant help to families in the coming months.”
The Prime Minister addressed top ministers on the crisis when he hosted Cabinet at No10 on Tuesday.
Mr Johnson’s spokesman said he opened the meeting “by highlighting recent action taken by the Government to support the public with the rising cost of living”.
He added: “He said measures like raising the threshold at which people pay National Insurance would save a typical employee £330 this year and mean 70% or workers would be better off from July – even after the NHS and Care Levy has been introduced”.
Mr Johnson “said there are no easy answers but the £22billion being provided by government would support those most in need”, his spokesman added.
No10 cited “global pressures coming out of a pandemic and war in Europe” for fuelling the crisis.
Downing Street added: “Certainly the Government is providing large levels of support where it’s needed most – a £22bn package for this year.
“We absolutely will not just leave people to have to deal with it.”