Protests in Wigan and Leigh at end of £20 uplift to universal credit

Trade union members will be heading onto the streets of Wigan and Leigh to protest the “devastating effect” of the end of an uplift to universal credit.

The Government introduced a £20 top-up to help people deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but plans to end it this autumn.

That is despite calls for the uplift to remain in place to support those with the lowest income.

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Wigan Trades Council and trade unions are now planning to make their voices heard, as they fear the impact that removing the extra payment will have.

The universal credit uplift is due to end

Demonstrations are being held in both Wigan and Leigh town centres on Wednesday, August 25.

A spokesman for Wigan Trades Council said: “On September 30 the universal credit top-up of £20 will be withdrawn. This will come as the cap on energy prices ends, the furlough scheme winds down and the moratorium on evictions is lifted.

“The National Institute of Economic and Social Research has warned the government that the ending of the lockdown and of the furlough scheme will result in an extra 160,000 redundancies.

“The Fuel Poverty Coalition forecasts that an additional 488,000 people would not be able to afford to heat their homes. And the debt charity Step Change has forecast large-scale evictions as a consequence of government policy.

“These changes come on top of an attack on wages and conditions by employers clawing back their lost profits from the last 18 months of crisis – forcing through fire-and-rehire policies and extending zero-hour contract payments. Meanwhile the wealthiest in our society have increased their fortunes, and the government have flushed billions of pounds down the toilet giving pandemic contracts to their friends and allies in big business.

“In a town where many families live on a week-to-week basis, managing tight budgets, these events will have a devastating effect on living conditions. Twenty pounds is nothing to the likes of Boris Johnson but is a lifeline to those on universal credit and low incomes.

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“Already wages in the Wigan area are on average £8,000 below the national average. Women workers in Wigan receive £5,000 below the national average for women and for men £9,000 below the national average for men. This means that many working families are surviving on universal credit, let alone those who are unemployed.

“The Tories have been pushed back on withdrawing free school meals, reopening schools in January and prematurely ending lockdowns. Elsewhere trade unions have fought successfully to stop firing and re-hiring and zero-hours contracts. There is every chance this can be stopped if we put enough pressure on the government.

“We need to keep the universal credit £20 uplift to protect the most vulnerable families in our towns.”

The trades council has organised a leafletting event starting at 11am on August 25 outside Brocol House, Wigan, followed by leafletting in the town centre from noon.

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Unite community branch will protest on Bradshawgate, in Leigh, from 1pm to 2pm, along with the People’s Assembly and a samba band.

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