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Slieve Gullion Councillor, Cllr Pete Byrne has called on Newry, Mourne and Down councillors to show their support for Universal Credit claimants.  

Councillor Byrne is introducing a motion at next Monday's October 4 meeting of Newry, Mourne and Down Council calling for councillors to acknowledge the important impact of the planned £20 weekly cut to Universal Credit and for everything possible to be done to retain it.   

In the absence of action from the British government the SDLP is calling on Sinn Féin Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey to work with Finance Minister Conor Murphy, to uphold the £20 a week for the remainder of the financial year and commit to a long-term strategy to tackle poverty and social deprivation across Newry, Mourne and Down.   

Councillor Byrne said “The British Government’s plan to remove £20 a week from Universal Credit claimants will affect thousands of people across our council area. Families who are already struggling to get by are being hit with this punitive cut after shelling out huge amounts on back to school costs for their kids, and just before Christmas. 

Councillor Pete Byrne

“This money was introduced to help families during the pandemic, well the pandemic is still ongoing with many people feeling the financial impact, making this cut inexplicable and cruel. Since this money has been introduced there have been large increases in the cost of living with the price of groceries increasing and utility prices increasing across the board. 

“We cannot allow vulnerable people to be treated this way, we need to take matters into our own hands and stop this cut. Welfare powers are devolved, despite the efforts of Sinn Féin and others to hand them off to the Tories. Minister Hargey needs to use these powers and go to her party colleague Minister Murphy and demand he finds the £55m needed to fund the £20 until March and give this money back to the people who need it most. 

“I’m calling on all councillors to use their voice to stand up for Universal Credit claimants and support our motion and campaign against this cut. £55m is a small amount of money for our Executive, but the £20 a week could be the difference for some families between having to skip meals or being able to buy clothes for their children.” 

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