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Universal Credit uplift stoppage could create 'perfect storm' says Bury St Edmunds Town Councillor

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Concerns for residents in West Suffolk have been raised after the Universal Credit boost was stopped, with one councillor claiming the timing could create ‘the perfect storm’.

The temporary weekly payment was brought in at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic to help struggling families, but was revoked by the Government last Wednesday.

Following the news, Bury St Edmunds town councillor Tom Murray said the timing could create ‘the perfect storm’, with energy, fuel and other costs rising heading into winter.

Councillor Tom Murray. Picture: Mark Westley.
Councillor Tom Murray. Picture: Mark Westley.

“For the people I represent, £20 is quite a lot,” he said. “Twenty is a lot when people are probably on the lowest incomes with children coming up. I do know quite a few people are really quite concerned.”

Cllr Murray’s comments were echoed by Carol Eagles, chief officer of the Citizens Advice West Suffolk branch, who added it was not just unemployed people who would struggle, but those with jobs as well.

Citizens Advice West Suffolk data reveals in 2020/21 they helped 79 more people than in the previous year with Universal Credit and there was also a 15 per cent increase year-on-year in support needed when applying.

Carol Eagles, chief officer of Citizens Advice West Suffolk.
Carol Eagles, chief officer of Citizens Advice West Suffolk.

Ms Eagles said her advice was for people losing the £20 to budget as much as possible and come to them for extra help.

It comes as Frank Stennett, a Fornham St Martin cum St Genevieve parish councillor, called on Bury Town Council to provide £25,000 to local food banks after it pledged the same amount for a Santa’s Grotto in the arc shopping centre at Christmas.

He said: “With them allocating £25,000 for that and with what struggles some are going to have before Christmas, why can’t they do the same for the food banks?”

Town mayor Pete Thompson said: “It’s not all or nothing. Food banks are being supported throughout the year, we are doing this on top of that.

Bury town mayor Pete Thompson.
Bury town mayor Pete Thompson.

"We have to look at lots of different elements of the population in Bury including the independent business community, retail and leisure.”

He added the town council had a number of other schemes planned to help people through the winter and proposals for the Santa’s Grotto included plans to donate a percentage of each ticket sale to Gatehouse, a charity based in Bury.

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