Universal Credit changes welcome but ‘long-term solutions' on fuel poverty needed: Andy Allen

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Ulster Unionist communities spokesperson said that bringing the taper rate down from 63% to 55%, to take place within weeks, is a positive step, but called on Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey to do more to support those impacted by the increased cost of living crisis.

Universal Credit changes welcome but ‘long-term solutions’ on fuel poverty needed: Andy Allen
© Andy Allen MLA. Photo: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

“I welcome the move to reduce the universal credit taper from 63% to 55% for every pound earned for those in employment. However, this should not be allowed to mask the shameful previous decision to remove the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift,” he said.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the current taper represents a “hidden tax on work” for many of the lowest paid in society and a “high rate of tax at that”.

Announcing the change to cheers from the Commons, he said: “To make sure work pays and help some of the lowest income families in our country keep more of their hard-earned money, I have decided to cut this rate not by 1%, not by 2%, but by 8%.”

Mr Sunak added: “This is a £2 billion tax cut for the lowest paid workers in our country. It supports working families, it helps with the cost of living and it rewards work.”

The changes mean that nearly two million families will keep on average an extra £1,000 a year, he said. He said a single mother-of-two renting and working full time on the national living wage will be better off by around £1,200.

Mr Allen added: “The budget will see Northern Ireland receive an additional £1.6bn through the Barnett formula and there will no doubt be competition for additional spending across all [executive] departments.

“Therefore, I reiterate my call for the Minister for Communities to immediately establish a Fuel Poverty Task Force to support and assist the Department in bringing meaningful long-term solutions to support those impacted by the increased cost of living”.

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