Chancellor Rishi Sunak could have axed the £20 Universal Credit cut – but decided not to reinstate a sum which helped many poor families stay afloat amid the cost-of-living crisis
Image: Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)
Rishi Sunak has sparked fury by refusing to block the cruel £20 Universal Credit cut.
The super-rich Chancellor’s stubborn move will plunge millions more into poverty.
One UC claimant said: “I don’t know how I’ll manage.”
Meanwhile out of touch Mr Sunak, left, was stumped at the cost of a can of beans.
With millions already in poverty, he had the opportunity to show the Tories are serious about levelling up by axing the £20 Universal Credit cut.
But the Chancellor, who is married to a billionaire’s daughter, condemned many more to a life of misery after he refused to scrap the vital benefit which helps poor families stay afloat amid the cost-of-living crisis.
Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)
And he sparked fury by dismissing the genuine fears of those who will be hit hardest by the cut by declaring: “Is the answer to their hopes and dreams just to increase their benefits?”
Many people claiming UC are in work but their wages are so dire they need the extra £20 just to survive.
The cruel blow comes on top of a National Insurance hike and after more than a decade of austerity.
In an example of how out of touch Mr Sunak is with the ordinary people he is battering, he could not say when quizzed how much a tin of beans costs.
The Chancellor, who has plans for a swimming pool, gym and tennis court at his £1.5million Yorkshire manor, rejected pleas by Labour, unions, landlords, charities and Tory MPs to keep the payment.
Labour’s Angela Eagle said: “You can’t expect somebody who has got planning permission to build an indoor swimming pool in his constituency home to understand the terrible choice that some working families have to take between heating their home and feeding their children.
“The £20 cut to UC will plunge six million people further into poverty and take huge amounts of money out of the economy. It’s still not too late to cancel the cut.”
Mr Sunak was asked by LBC radio host Nick Ferrari what was the price of a tin of Heinz beans. He replied: “I don’t know … 50-ish p maybe?” It costs 95p.
When told, Mr Sunak did not stop digging: “95? OK. I get the smaller packet ones though…”
One community worker even put a shopping list together to show him how much food families would lose after the £20 cut.
Rayna Downey, from Northern Ireland’s Women’s Centre, Derry, said the extra cash helps households eat.
She added: “I wanted to see what you could realistically provide for your family.
“And it turns out you can do pretty well with four or five dinners, your breakfast and lunch. It’s the basics, yes, but it goes to show that £20 can go a long way.
“I’ve made five cracking dinners, everyone’s had lunch and cereal for breakfast, tea, coffee or whatever.
“Now that’s going, and even more people are going to end up struggling.” Childminder Caroline Rice is one of around 40% of UC claimants who are working, but need it to top up low pay.
Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)
The 48-year-old, from Co. Fermanagh, said: “I don’t know how I will manage with the £20 a week taken away. That’s nearly £90 every payment term. We’ve cut all our outgoings as much as we can and I’ve got to the point where we can’t cut any more. We barely get by every month.
“I need my car for work. I can’t stop paying my rent or stop eating. We’ve already cut our TV licence. The debts that I already have are never going to be paid and it’s just going to grow.”
But Mr Sunak’s patronising message to people such as Caroline in his speech to Tory conference was to tell them stand on their own two feet.
He said: “Is the answer to tell a young family, the economic system is rigged against you and the only way you stand a chance is to lean ever more on the state?”
The former Goldman Sachs banker, who is thought to be the richest MP, also claimed “we should all be grateful” to the Tories for a decade of “sound management” of the economy.
But he ignored the devastating effects of austerity, which has plunged millions of Britons into poverty and crippled public services such as schools and hospitals.
The Chancellor, who went to a top boarding school and Oxford University, was once snapped with a £180 heated bluetooth coffee mug as Britain braced itself for a wave of Covid job losses.
But he told activists that he would only consider cutting taxes once the public finances are on a “sustainable footing” following the pandemic. He said: “Our recovery comes with a cost.”
Mr Sunak refused to rule out more tax rises after the hike in National Insurance that comes in next April.
That means higher bills for council tax, which has soared by above inflation for years, to pay for social care. Mr Sunak acknowledged that tax rises are “unpopular, some will even say un-Conservative”.