Lord Jonny Oates at the Pudding Club at York

Lord Oates

I was delighted to welcome Lord Jonny Oates to York last month for a visit to our annual Pudding Club – one of the highlights of our local parties social calendar!

Lord Oates, who was recently made a life peer after serving as a councillor in Kingston Upon Thames and later as Chief of Staff to Nick Clegg, highlighted his concerns about proposed cuts to Universal Credit to local party members in York.

As readers will know, last year George Osborne was forced to re-think cuts to working tax credits after a local and national campaign by the Lib Dems. The changes were set to hit 8,000 families in York, but the Chancellor said households claiming the benefit would be helped by “transitional protection” as they moved to the new single Universal Credit.

Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, claimed that “nobody will lose any money on arrival on universal credit from tax credits”. Many residents in York were reassured and pleased that a U-Turn had been made.

However, the Government has revealed since that the “transition” funding will not be given to new claimants or families if they have a “significant change in circumstances” such as finding a partner or moving home.  This means a single parent in York who finds a new partner and decides to form a two-parent family could as a result lose around £1,000 in benefit. Nationally, we have dubbed this a “love tax” and launched a petition against the changes.

My colleague Cllr Sue Hunter campaigned against the cuts to tax credits last year in York, and had this to say about the latest proposals:

Lib Dems campaigned strongly and George Osborne was forced to rethink plans to cut working tax credits. However, it now looks like the Conservative Government is pushing through very similar cuts. Families in York could in fact lose out by £1,080 a year when they were led to believe they would be no worse off with Universal Credit.

I am pleased that Lord Oates and the Lib Dem team in Parliament are fighting these unfair changes to Universal Credit. Their forensic analysis of the Government’s plans shows the true value of our team in the Lords.

* Keith Aspden has been the Councillor for Fulford Ward in York since 2003 and for Fulford and Heslington Ward since 2015. Since 2019 he is the Leader of City of York Council, and the Liberal Democrat Deputy Chair of the LGA Fire Services Management Committee.

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