Jonathan Reynolds has criticised Theresé Coffey as footage emerged of the Work and Pensions Secretary singing “I’ve had the time of my life” at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
The footage, which emerged in the early hours of this morning, showed the Conservative minister dancing and celebrating just one hour after the government’s move to cut the £20-per-week uplift to Universal Credit came into effect.
“The Secretary of State singing that she is having “the time of her life” while making families £1,000 a year worse off today is frankly an insult and a disgrace. It is not too late for the government to reverse this disastrous decision, support struggling families and cancel this cut,” Reynolds said today.
As a result of the reduction to the benefit, 5.5 million families across the country have today seen their annual income fall by £1,040 in the biggest ever overnight cut to social security. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation predicts that the move will push half a million more people into poverty, including 200,000 children.
Ministers have argued the cut is part of a drive to get people back to work, despite government figures showing that 40% of claimants are in work. 1.7 million people affected are unable to work due to caring for others, disability or illness.
Deputy director at JRF Helen Barnard said the cut “makes a mockery” of Boris Johnson’s levelling-up agenda, adding: “This is not building back better, it’s repeating the same mistakes made after the last financial crisis.”
She accused Johnson of “abandoning millions to hunger and hardship with his eyes wide open. Low-income families urgently need him to reinstate this vital lifeline”.
The Prime Minister delivered his address to the Conservative Party conference this afternoon. He was criticised for a lack of policy in a speech branded “bombastic but vacuous and economically illiterate” by a right-wing think tank.
He told those in the audience that his leadership will “deal with the underlying issues of our economy and our society,” as he promised to “build back better”. He accused the Labour Party of wanting to “level down” rather than up.
He described his administration as a “reforming” and “can-do government”, which is focused on tackling long-term structural weaknesses in the economy, blaming sectors such as haulage for not properly investing in better wages or conditions.
But the only policy announced by Johnson today was a new “levelling up premium”, which will see “talented maths, physics and chemistry teachers” receive £3,000 more per year to encourage them to work in more deprived areas of the country.
Reacting to the speech, Anneliese Dodds said: “Far from getting a grip on the spiralling costs of energy, fuel and food, the Tories are actively making things worse – cutting incomes today for six million families by over £1,000 a year.”