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‘At breaking point’: calls to scrap Universal Credit from Islington Council

Islington council becomes the second authority to call for an end to new benefits

14 December, 2018 — By Emily Finch

Cllr Troy Gallagher speaking at full council last Thursday 


THE Town Hall has become one of the first local authorities in the country to call on the government to scrap Universal Credit.

A vote taken at a full council meeting on Thursday has no power to change government policy but all of the assembled councillors backed the motion to end the new benefits system which is currently being rolled out across the country.

It was tabled by Cllr Troy Gallagher, a Labour representative for Bunhill, who spoke of how some of his constituents were at “breaking point” after being moved to the new system which combines six “legacy” benefits into one.

The Town Hall estimates that households on Universal Credit are set to lose an average of £500 a year. Around 4,000 homes have been transferred to Universal Credit with another 21,000 to follow.

Cllr Gallagher said: “I am proud to be the first council calling for Universal Credit to be scrapped. It’s time to call a stop to this vicious and spiteful policy.”

As previously reported in the Tribune, residents are not just finding they are entitled to less money but are facing huge bureaucratic hurdles to access services.

Last month, we reported from a foodbank off the Caledonian Road in the Ringcross Community Centre where one 50- year-old woman was told she and her husband would only be provided with £200 for household spending.

We also spoke to Lawrence Curtis, 53, a social entrepreneur from Highbury who runs a mental health project supporting people who are trying to get back into work. He was inspired to help others after his own experience of re-entering the work-force led to a severe depressive episode.

Mr Curtis told us how, under Universal Credit, he had not received any money for 10 weeks after the Department for Work and Pensions incorrectly believed he was getting regular income after his organisation received a one-off £10,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund. He has made numerous trips to the Jobcentre in Barnsbury but has met little success.

“This whole process has been so frustrating, and it feels like the DWP just don’t listen,” he said this week.

Mr Curtis is meeting with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn today (Friday) to explain how he has suffered under the new benefits system.

The Town Hall – with 47 Labour councillors and one Green councillor – has close links to Mr Corbyn with many councillors in regular contact with the opposition leader.

He has previously called for the “end to the ridiculous system” of Universal Credit which he said “has become a vehicle for depriving people who deserve and need the benefits they should get, of getting them”.

Finance chief Cllr Andy Hull spoke about three “victims of Universal Credit” he has been helping in recent months. He said one mother-of- two within his constituency had fallen into arrears with the nursery looking after her daughter and is now relying on foodbanks after a delay in receiving her benefits.

The council’s sole opposition councillor representing the Green Party, Cllr Caroline Russell, also backed the motion and added: “That is no way for people to live. I am right by you and give you my full support.”

Tower Hamlets was the first local authority to call for Universal Credit to be stopped and replaced. The vote took place on November 21 and was passed by a vote of all but two councillors.

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