Rishi Sunak urged to stop ‘apocalypse of job losses’ by keeping temporary Universal Credit payment rise
Rishi Sunak has been urged to stop an “apocalypse of job losses” and make the temporary increases to Universal Credit permanent.
SNP MP David Linden claimed millions of people were having to choose between food and heating, and urged the UK Government to take action immediately.
Speaking to The Scotsman to mark Challenge Poverty Week, the Glasgow East MP accused the Tory party of not doing enough with their Winter Economic Plan.
He said: “This week would have been the ideal time for the UK government to announce a desperately needed package of measures – including extending the furlough scheme and making the Universal Credit increase permanent - that would prevent people falling over the cliff edge and into poverty, or further into poverty.
“With a stroke of his pen, Rishi Sunak could have extended the furlough scheme to prevent an apocalypse of job losses, and made the temporary £20 increase to Universal Credit permanent, which has been a real lifeline for so many throughout this pandemic.
“The Chancellor could have provided a real lifeline for millions, as well as taken a solid first step in rebuilding the social security system the Tories spent a decade brutally dismantling.”
Universal Credit was raised by £20 in the wake of Covid-19, but the change is only scheduled to last until April 2021.
Last week Mr Sunak unveiled his replacement for the furlough scheme, but admitted “no Chancellor” could save every job.
Under the new “jobs support scheme”, furloughed employees who go back to work for a third of their hours can have their wages subsidised for the next six months.
It will see workers get 77 per cent of their normal pay for working just 33 per cent of their hours, as the furlough scheme that has supported nine million people since March is axed.
Mr Linden claimed the statement was “nothing more than crumbs from the UK Cabinet table”, and accused the UK Government of making a choice not to help.
He explained: “Right now, thousands - if not millions - of people across Scotland and the UK are having to choose between food and heating, between feeding themselves and feeding loved ones.
“The Tory government has once again failed to take the action desperately needed to tackle poverty and stop people from having to make those impossible decisions.
The Winter Economic Plan, set out by the Chancellor and essentially replacing this year’s autumn budget, is another recent example in the Tories’ long list of missed opportunities and failures.
Mr Linden said: “As we approach the end of Challenge Poverty Week, I am urging the Tories at Westminster to stop prioritising the rich over the poor, and to really think about the action they must take if we are to really challenge poverty and prevent millions from falling over the edge.”
Analysis by the Scottish Government suggests extending the furlough scheme could save 61,000 jobs in Scotland.
Yesterday the Chancellor unveiled a new furlough wage extension for businesses forced to close.
The scheme will now be expanded to see the UK Government also pay two thirds of employees’ salaries for firms legally required to shut for some period over the winter.
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