Councillors vote to donate their allowances

Uttlesford Foodbank in Saffron Walden will receive £500 as part of the cash distribution. Picture: C

Archive image: Uttlesford Foodbank in Saffron Walden - Credit: Archant

Uttlesford district councillors will donate their allowances to a food bank in response to the government’s decision to cut Universal Credit, amid fears that families in Uttlesford could lose thousands of pounds.

Uttlesford District Council on Tuesday evening (October 5) heard that families in the district could lose £1,040 a year after the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit ends.

Local Government Association statistics cited in the motion revealed that 4,806 people in the district were claiming Universal Credit as of August 2021, with 2,078 of those in employment.

Councillors representing Residents for Uttlesford, Conservative and Independent amended the original motion, which would have seen the council call on the government to retain the uplift, to also include inviting all councillors to donate up to all of their monthly allowances to the Uttlesford Food Bank during November.

But the amendment drew fierce criticism from Liberal Democrat members who tabled the original motion, arguing families needed “cash in their pocket” rather than having to continually rely on charity.

Ayub Khan, Lib Dem councillor for Stansted South and Birchanger. Photo: Supplied by Ayub Khan.

Ayub Khan, Lib Dem councillor for Stansted South and Birchanger. Photo: Supplied by Ayub Khan. - Credit: Supplied by Ayub Khan

The Lib Dems submitted a second amendment, which also passed, asking Councillor Ayub Khan to liaise with the foodbank in order to report back on how the money had been spent.

Conservative group leader Christian Criscione told the meeting the council needed to stop “virtue signalling”.

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He said: “Would it hit me financially to give up, as we are suggesting we do, my councillors allowance?

“Yes, yes it would, but I will and I know others in the same situation will, because they know there are people out there who are much worse off than us.

“£24,000 is the maximum we can raise here and that will go a hell of a long way.”

According to reporting by the BBC, the temporary increase in Universal Credit was started in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The end of the scheme, in combination with a 12% rise in the maximum energy companies can charge, has prompted fears families in the district financially will worse off over the winter period.

Councillors will be updated on on how the money has been spent in the first full council meeting of 2022.