You may have heard of the vote today on universal credit.
Let me just start by saying that I completely understand how important the uplift is for our families. Having spoken to local residents and charities about the importance of the uplift I have been working with colleagues to press for an extension since last year. This includes speaking directly with the Work and Pensions Secretary, writing to ministers and joining my colleagues in raising this issue with the Chancellor - and I will continue to do so.
The decisions on the uplift, as with most budget-related decisions, are subject to review and will be announced in the upcoming March budget. These decisions will take time - after all, an independent estimate suggests that the policy will cost £5.8 billion, and the appropriate adjustments to other aspects of the budget would have to be made to accommodate this decision. Whilst I welcome the opportunity for this to be talked about and discussed in the open, Opposition Day "motions" are not binding - they are a form of "opinion" that do not come with a plan, or an estimate.
Whilst I agree this is an important subject, it is unfortunate that the opposition has decided to draft it in a way to score political points. The uplift, which has been provided by the Conservative government since last year, has been deliberately phrased as a "cut" to create controversy.
You will know from the previous "Free School Meals" vote that I am open to voting with the opposition when it is the right thing for our area. However, it is clear that this is an attempt to score political points and to turn this into a partisan, toxic debate. It is well within their right to do so, but I just hope that this will not undermine the crucial work that is currently being done to extend the uplift. Therefore, I have instructed my proxy to abstain from voting against the motion.
I will, of course, continue to push for the uplift to be extended. If you know of anyone who needs help please ask them to get in touch – my office and I are here to help.