The PM and Chancellor are under pressure from their own party to halt the cuts
Senior Tory MPs are joining opposition parties, charities and food banks in a bid for the government to make a U-turn on its plans to cut Universal Credit and scrap the furlough scheme.
Former Tory work and pensions secretary, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, is among those urging Chancellor Rishi Sunak to abandon plans to remove £20 a week from struggling families.
Certain Tory party members have joined opposition parties in asking the government not to make these cuts at a time when coronavirus rates are rising, more restrictions are being imposed and a recession is just around the corner
Writing to Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the SNP warned that cutting Universal Credit and removing the furlough scheme will move the UK towards “mass unemployment and soaring poverty”.
SNP Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, who supports making the £20 uplift to Universal Credit permanent and extending the furlough scheme to 2021, said new lockdown restrictions being imposed across the UK in the three-tier system, make it “imperative” that the Prime Minister and Chancellor do not go ahead with their proposed cuts.
Mr Blackford’s calls for measures to support workers and unemployed people over the last six months has been constantly rebuffed by the Prime Minister and Chancellor. They have also refused to devolve financial powers, preventing the Scottish Parliament from taking such action for Scotland.
On Tuesday, new analysis from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that the UK unemployment rate grew to a three year high of 4.5% in the three months to August, compared with 4.1% in the previous quarter.
Redundancies have risen to their highest level since 2009, with this number expected to rise further if the Tories scrap the furlough scheme this month. Analysis from Citibank suggests unemployment could hit 8.5% in the first half of 2021, which is the highest level since the 1990s.
According to the Resolution Foundation, the proposed benefits cut would impact around six million households.
Withdrawing the uplift of Universal Credit risks putting around 700,000 more households into poverty, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has found.
Mr Blackford said: “The Tory government is taking the UK towards a devastating winter of mass redundancies and soaring poverty, which will cause lasting harm to our communities for many years to come.
“The SNP has been calling for a U-turn on Tory plans to slash Universal Credit, and scrap the furlough scheme, for the past six months. With a second wave of coronavirus hitting the UK, and increased restrictions in place, it is vital that, even at this late stage, the Prime Minister and Chancellor finally see sense and extend financial support to protect people’s jobs and incomes.
“It has been clear for some time that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have taken a deliberate decision to let unemployment rise – just as the Tories did under Thatcher in the 1980s. If the Tories do withdraw this crucial support, in the middle of a pandemic, they will never be forgiven for the damage they will do.
“For many, it is already too late. Thousands of people have already lost their jobs, and good businesses have already gone under because the Tories failed to deliver the support required.
“Scotland has been put in the impossible position of responding to this unprecedented crisis at the same time that the Tories have been cutting back support, and deliberately blocking the devolution of the financial powers the Scottish Parliament needs to protect our economy.
“The Tory government must think again – stop the cuts to universal credit, extend the furlough scheme, and devolve financial powers to the Scottish Parliament. But it is clearer than ever that the only way to protect Scotland’s economy is to become an independent country.”
Lucy Skoulding is a freelance reporter at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.
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