Universal Credit rollout began in the BN3 postcode area in October, and it was reassuring to read some encouraging words from a local Labour MP. Writing on Facebook, they said: “My whole team braced itself for a deluge of casework, but that hasn’t been the case. We’ve had some people in need of support, but not as many as we expected.” They went on to explain: “Some have been given an advance on their payment to get them by. I spoke to frontline staff to ensure that this is done fairly and swiftly, and was shown the system being used and assured that payments are made instantly and that staff have the discretion to make decisions without getting embroiled in bureaucracy.”
This is very welcome news, as Conservative Councillors in the city have taken action to ensure all claimants continue to receive any help they need. At a meeting of Full Council, on November 2nd, The Conservative Group successfully tabled a Motion calling for The Secretary of State for Work & Pensions to assure residents of Brighton and Hove, who are transitioning from the complexity of six separate state benefits onto Universal Credit, that they will have the financial assistance necessary to make the switch as seamless as possible.
Sadly not all councillors from the Labour Administration felt the residents of their respective Wards deserved these reassurances, as they voted against the Motion or abstained; but the Conservatives demonstrated its importance and enough Councillors voted for their Notice of Motion to ensure its success.
Conservative Councillors also called for an end to public sector pay constraint where workers currently earn less than £45,000. Demanding that these increases are funded from new money, and not from existing budgets, the Conservative’s amendment ensures that fair pay settlements can be achieved without impacting services or jobs; this means that frontline staff working on the transition to Universal Credit could see their pay increase in excess of the cap.