Lewisham Council is set to lobby the Government to make the weekly increase in Universal Credit payments permanent.

The Government increased Universal Credit by £20 per week in April 2020, but the uplift is due to come to an end in April 2021.  

A motion going before Lewisham’s full council next week involves urging central Government to keep the increase for good. 

According to the motion, set to be proposed by Cllr Stephen Penfold, the removal of the extra £20 will be a “huge loss”.  

“In April the Government plans 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 March 20 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,” it states.  

The motion also warns that pressing ahead with the plans would see the level of employment support fall to its lowest real terms level since 1990/91. 

“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,” it states.  

According to the motion, the increase has had a positive effect on claimants and therefore spending in the local economy.   

If the motion is passed the council plans to write to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and to the Prime Minister demanding the £20 increase is made permanent and extended to claimants on legacy benefits.  

It also plans to work with other local government organisations to form a coalition to pressure the Government. 

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesperson said it will continue to assess the situation. 

 “We are committed to supporting the lowest-paid families through the pandemic and beyond to ensure that nobody is left behind.  

“That’s why we’ve targeted our support to those most in need by raising the living wage, spending hundreds of billions to safeguard jobs, boosting welfare support by billions and introducing the £170 million Covid Winter Grant Scheme to help children and families stay warm and well-fed during the coldest months.  

“As the Government has done throughout this crisis, it will continue to assess how best to support low-income families, which is why we will look at the economic and health context before making any decisions.”