Clashes in council chamber over universal credit uplift

MEMBERS of the local Council have cl ashed over the extension of the Universal Credit (UC) ‘uplift’ £20 payment, with some referring to claims of ‘electioneering’ ahead of next year’s Assembly poll.

The SDLP’s Councillor Adam Gannon expressed disappointed by a response by the Minister for Finance in response to a call to maintain the £20 per week UC uplift.

He felt the reply “appears to shift blame to the British government, which is interesting as this very minister allowed Welfare Reform to happen and handed the power to said British government”.


He continued: Ultimately, we have an Executive, and it needs to take ownership and not shift the blame for failures … I take a positive from the Minister for Finance recognising the need for an anti-poverty strategy.

“That leads in to the letter from the Minister for Communities, who speaks of work on this strategy. She goes through a range of initiatives undertaken in her term, in particular, during the pandemic.

“She did do good work, and it must be recognised she did bid for funding for the uplift, and her actions were true to her word, but only the Minister of Infrastructure, Nicola Mallon, supported her, which was very disappointing.”

Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh, Independent, agreed, telling members: “It’s more than disappointing. The reality is this £20 top-up was hugely significant – that’s a reality.

“With prices going up, it’s shameful we have a government where these attacks are ongoing … The blame has been pointed to London, but undoubtedly Stormont has the capacity to take action.”

He proposed the Executive “raise a resistance” on behalf of working class and deprived communities.

Continuing, he said: “We should be writing back to the Minister for Finance asking if it’s possible to use the existing borrowing facility to cover this top-up.


“Undoubtedly it’s a short-term move, but this will bring things to a head. It will force the Tory government to back off if Stormont can run a needs-based budget that protects working class people.”

Seconding, Councillor Eamon Keenan, Independent, added: “Blaming the Tories isn’t going to cut it. Responsibility has to be taken by Stormont.”

“One councillor referred to a reality check, then went on to mention this nonsense we have to listen to month in, month out.

Councillor Emmet McAleer remarked: “If that’s the best his ministers can offer, it’s just not good enough. I hope it isn’t the best they can offer … We need to look at realities and how we can work around this system, which is failing the most vulnerable. “Stormont has a £2 million borrowing capacity that has hardly been touched. That needs to be looked at … We’re suffering badly; we need to look at ways of working around this broken system.

“That is the reality check we need to be aware of.”

Ulster Unionist Councillor Victor Warrington accepted there needs to be awareness on the difficulty of finances, but noted “borrowing … has to be paid back”.

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