County Cllr Julie Gibson has reacted with dismay that the Conservative administration at Lancashire County will not back calls for changes to Universal Credit. Cllr Gibson was due to move a motion at the next Full Council asking for cross-party support to lobby government to make changes to the benefit including the abolition of the 5 week waiting time.
Cllr Gibson said: “I was extremely disappointed that the motion was ruled out of order as not pertaining to Lancashire – this being due to changes in the constitution bought in last year by the ruling Conservative administration. I was hoping the County Council would join with many others who are already calling for changes to this benefit, supporting the many people who have lost their jobs due to Covid-19.”
She continued: “The claimant count in West Lancashire still stands at 5.5%. Figures available also show that West Lancashire had the largest increase in applicants for Job Seekers Allowance (56%) in May 2020 across the whole of the County (Redefining Lancashire – LCC). As Job Seekers Allowance continues to be replaced by Universal Credit we will see a lot of people who are first time unemployed suddenly realising they will get nothing for 5 weeks.
Cllr Gibson said: “Last weekend we saw the start of the relaxation of the furlough scheme and already we are hearing predictions that this may lead to some employers having to lay off staff. Workers who have required support from the job retention scheme and self-employed income support scheme are most likely to face unemployment risks in the months ahead. I would call on the government to extend the furlough scheme but where people are made redundant they should have the safety and security of knowing they will not have to wait 5 weeks for a universal credit payment.
Cllr Gibson concluded: “Many news reports we see are talking of a post-Covid recession, we need to be prepared and ready to help people at risk of falling into debt, many of whom will be facing unemployment for the first time. We cannot risk a return to the days of mass unemployment and the poverty and isolation that goes with it; it is extremely disappointing that the Conservatives at Lancashire County Council refuse to acknowledge this.”