Motion - To maintain the income of low and middle income families
This Council notes:
• Next April the Government plan to cut the benefit level for millions of claimants by ending of the time limited increase to the basic rate of Universal Credit (and the tax credit equivalent) announced by the Chancellor on 20th March as part of his pandemic response package.
• The £20 a week boost reflected the reality that the level of benefits were not adequate to protect the swiftly increasing number of households relying on them as the crisis hit. Exactly because that increase was a very significant and welcome move to bolster low and middle-income families living standards, its removal will be a huge loss.
• Pressing ahead would see the level of unemployment support fall to its lowest real-terms level since 1990-91, and its lowest ever relative to average earnings. Indeed, the basic level of out-of-work support prior to the March boost was – at £73 a week (£3,800 a year) – less than half the absolute poverty line.
• The increase in benefits have had a positive effect on the lives of thousands of local claimants who are better able to pay for life’s essentials such as food, clothing and utilities.
• The local economy has also benefited from the increase in benefit levels as claimants spend their money locally thereby supporting local businesses and jobs.
• We also note that there has been no such increase in carers allowance with many unpaid carers facing extreme financial hardship, many have been struggling for months, often relying on foodbanks to feed themselves and the people they care for.
This Council resolves to:
• Write to the Chancellor, Rushi Sunak and to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson demanding that the £20 increase to Universal Credit is made permanent and extended to claimants on legacy benefits.
• Work with other local government organisations to form a coalition to pressure the government to make the £20 increase to Universal Credit permanent.
• Write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, urging them to raise Carer’s Allowance by £20 a week immediately, in line with the increase in Universal Credit, and copy in our local MP(s), asking for their support.
• Promote Young Carers Action Day on March 16th 2021 as widely as possible on an annual basis, particularly to young carers and their families.
Proposed: Councillor Tim Gibson
Seconded: Councillor Steve
Councillor Tim Gibson proposed the motion as set out on the Agenda. He detailed the financial struggles faced by families in Swale if the £20 temporary increase to the basic rate of Universal Credit as part of the Covid-19 pandemic response discontinued, and he drew attention to the high numbers of families that now relied on food banks as a direct result of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. In seconding the motion, Councillor Steve Davey reserved his right to speak.
The Leader of the opposition said that whilst he was in support of the Council doing everything it could to help those in need, the motion was too political, and he did not agree with all the resolutions proposed.
In the debate that followed, Members raised points including:
· Was in support of the motion and said that the temporary increase should be made permanent;
· gave praise for and stressed the importance of carers, highlighting that Carer’s Allowance was the lowest financial benefit, and had not received the additional increase;
· gave support to the promotion of Young Carers Action Day on 16 March 2021 and encouraged lobbying of Government to raise Carer’s Allowance by £20 a week;
· there were other ways that SBC could actively seek to assist;
· if sufficient people lobbied, Central Government might listen;
· young carers were not recognised for the roles they carried out;
· not supporting the motion to keep the increase, could put pressure on food banks, housing, and voluntary and community services;
· should still take action, even if political, if it is for a good cause;
· the country was entering the worse phase of the covid-19 pandemic so far and the temporary increase should not be taken away now;
· should support a national drive to support those experiencing the harsh impact of the covid-19 pandemic;
· was in support of lobbying, but had concerns over the lack of detail on forming a coalition to put pressure on Government;
· should consider what was best for Swale;
· was a good motion, but not well written;
· the increase should be permanent and more than £20; and
· supported the principle, but not the wording of the motion.
Councillor Alan Horton proposed an amendment to the wording of the motion, changing bullet points 1 and 2. This was seconded by Councillor Mike Dendor:
· Write to the Chancellor, Rushi Sunak and to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson requesting that the £20 increase to Universal Credit is made permanent and extended to claimants on legacy benefits.
· Work with other local government organisations to pressure the Government to make the £20 increase to Universal Credit permanent.
The proposer of the original motion, Councillor Gibson, agreed with the amendments to the wording of the motion as did the seconder.
In accordance with Procedure Rule 19(2), five Members requested a recorded vote, and voting was as follows:
For: Councillors Baldock, Beart, Bonney, Bowen, Carnell, R Clark, S Clark, Darby, Davey, Dendor, Fowle, Gibson, Gould, Hall, A Hampshire, N Hampshire, Harrison, Horton, Hunt, Ingleton, Jackson, Jayes, Knights, Macdonald, Marchington, Benjamin A Martin, Ben J Martin, Palmer, Perkin, Pugh, Rowles, Saunders, Simmons, P Stephen, S Stephen, Truelove, Valentine, Whelan, Whiting, Winckless, Woodford. Total equals 41.
The Mayor advised that the motion was carried.
(1) Write to the Chancellor, Rushi Sunak and to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson requesting that the £20 increase to Universal Credit is made permanent and extended to claimants on legacy benefits.
(2) Work with other local government organisations to pressure the Government to make the £20 increase to Universal Credit permanent.
(3) Write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions urging them to raise Carer’s Allowance by £20 a week immediately, in line with the increase in Universal Credit, and copy in our local MP(S), asking for their support
(4) Promote Young Carers Action day on 16 March 2021 as widely as possible and on an annual basis, particularly to young carers and their families.