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Peter Lamb: Universal Credit, most damaging social policy we’ve faced?

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It has been in the news a lot lately and even made it into the Budget, but Universal Credit is coming and in its current form it’s potentially the most damaging social policy we’ve faced since the Government introduced the Bedroom Tax.

The original idea wasn’t a bad one, make it easier for people to get on in life by reducing financial barriers between unemployment, part-time employment and full-time employment.

Unfortunately, it was never been backed up with the financial resources it needs to work, meaning claimants go weeks without income and without any of the support structures necessary for the policy to work. So far, only a few local residents have been moved onto Universal Credit, but with the full roll-out coming next Summer we risk seeing many Crawley families going homeless or being put into real financial difficulty.

As a council, we’ve done what we can to protect people from the worst of Conservative social policy. One of our first decisions on regaining control was to stop evictions for Bedroom Tax arrears and we’ve maintained Council Tax benefit levels despite Government cuts to our grant.

Unfortunately, Universal Credit centralises most forms of social security under the Department for Work and Pensions, removing any similar opportunities for us to fix its problems on the ground.

We may not be able to counter the policy directly, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still speak up.

This weekend I was out with other members of my Unite Community branch in Queens Square raising awareness of Universal Credit and its likely impact upon local people and next week I am proposing a motion at Full Council which asks members on both sides of the chamber to call upon the Government to make the necessary changes for our residents to avoid destitution.

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Council have plans in place for ‘Beast from the East’

Salting operations are to continue throughout the period; snow ploughs will be fitted when required to ensure main roads are kept open.

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Yellow warnings for snow in Crawley have been issued by the Met Office until Wednesday. Photo: MetOffice

Snowfall will be effecting most of the country over the forthcoming week and the Met Office have issued yellow weather warnings for snow as well as amber warnings for some areas.

Following these warnings, West Sussex County Council have said they have plans in place to keep main roads open.

A West Sussex Highways spokesman said:

“Precautionary salting operations will continue throughout the period and snow ploughs will be fitted when required to ensure main roads are kept open.

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“We are therefore advising Town and Parish Councils to be prepared to enact their Winter Management Plans IF and when we issue an instruction to do so.”

A further update will be issued later today.

The County Council’s winter campaign website page has several sections giving advice on ‘staying warm’ please click here.

If you know or look after someone who may be susceptible to the effects of this cold weather period, please help ensure they stay warm and well and check in advance that they are prepared for this cold spell.

WSCC have offered some general advice including:

• Stay tuned in to weather forecasts.
• Check and maintain daytime room temperatures of 21°C.
• Check bedroom night-time temperatures and maintain it at 18°C or warmer.
• Keep warm and active and, if you have to go out, dress warmly and wear non-slip shoes.
• If you are concerned about your own health or welfare, or that of others, please alert the emergency services – details: emergency services.

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