Cherwell District Council: No answer to impact of Universal Credit uplift ending

The leader of Cherwell District Council hit back at accusations he had been evasive over the impact of the Universal Credit uplift ending by pointing to the polls.

Cllr Barry Wood (Con, Fringford & Heyfords) was questioned by leader of the opposition Cllr Sean Woodcock (Lab, Banbury Ruscote) not only over how the region’s families would cope with losing the extra £20 per week, temporarily given to Universal Credit claimants during the Covid-19 pandemic, but also how local businesses would be affected.

At a meeting of full council, Cllr Woodcock said the measure had taken “more than £11million” out of the Cherwell economy and asked his opposite number: “How does the leader intend to replace this money?”

Cllr Wood replied: “There is quite a complicated answer to this question.

Cherwell District Council: No answer to impact of Universal Credit uplift ending

“I think most of us knew and understood that the uplift was temporary and in reaction to Covid, that it was not going to continue.

“There have been a raft of other measures that have come in parallel or subsequently to the uplift and I will provide some documentation on those for all members.

“I suspect it won’t satisfy Councillor Woodcock and the point he is making. My point is that a quite detailed answer needs to be given.”

Cllr Woodcock retorted: “As usual he said a lot without actually answering the question I asked.

“This cut for more than 10,000 Cherwell families comes on top of his government increasing national insurance. Meanwhile, his council is increasing council tax and parking charges and introducing charges to get your garden waste removed.

“That is more money taken out of the pockets of local families, off local high streets and off the books of local businesses at a time when they need our support to recover.

“How does he intend to replace that?”

Cllr Wood replied: “If I had an instant solution to all those matters I would have forwarded it by now.

“The charges that are in the gift of this authority, none of them are made wantonly or without proper consideration of the impact on residents.

“Sometimes councils, like governments, have to make choices about where to levy charges. Those are hard decisions for elected members but ones that in the end we have to take responsibility for, particularly controlling groups.

“In the end, I feel that you and I are not going to agree about how to choose between the big choices that have to be made, either nationally or locally. That is the purpose of a democratic system and opposition.

“I have to say candidly, I am one of those who keeps an eye on voting intention across the country. I am going to be particularly interested in that in the coming weeks but as of now, there is no change to voting intention. The Conservatives are still ahead of Labour by about six points.”