Warren Morgan: Universal Credit will affect most vulnerable

Warren Morgan, the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council SUS-170126-092210001
Warren Morgan, the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council SUS-170126-092210001

This week at Conservative Party conference, Theresa May has tried to regain the trust of the public that she so clearly lost at the General Election in June.

But a huge number of people who are struggling the most – those the Conservative Government have completely left behind - are very unlikely to have paid her any heed.

A key issue is the roll-out of Universal Credit, which combines six other benefits. Around 20,000 households are estimated to be affected in Brighton and Hove over the next few years. Between now and January people in the city making new claims and people whose circumstances change will go onto Universal Credit, with existing benefit claimants expected to be transferred across from 2019.

When people need to claim Universal Credit, they will usually face a wait of six weeks without any payments at all, and in the initial roll-out in other areas up to one in four people have had to wait even longer than that. This means many living in the private rented sector face being unable to pay their rent, and will potentially become homeless. More will be forced to use food banks. Why is the government pushing forward with the roll-out of this policy when the most vulnerable are being affected? A dozen Tory MPs urged their own Government to at least put Universal Credit on pause while a number of serious issues were looked at. This week they refused. Tory MP Heidi Allen said the delays in payments are evidence that the fundamental design of the system is wrong. If Theresa May was at all serious about regaining trust, she would listen to her own MPs and pause the roll-out.

I can reassure you that council officers have been working really hard for months to get ready for the changes and to reduce as far as possible the impact on residents, for example looking at access to money advice and support services.

We will do our very best to help Brighton and Hove residents hit by this benefit change roll-out. But yet again we are having to step in where we can to tackle the harsh impact of Conservative Government policy. In this instance, as in others, the Conservatives don’t seem to understand the reality of people’s lives.

Warren Morgan is the Labour leader of Brighton & Hove City Council.