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News Report Page 5 of 14
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Liverpool says:- "Rethink Universal Credit..."

City wide call for the Government to reconsider the roll-out of welfare reforms.

THOUSANDS of people in Liverpool are being forced into poverty because of the Government's welfare reform program. And with the rollout of Universal Credit (UC) looming large over the City, many more will be forced into a downward spiral of debt and destitution.  That's the stark warning from community leaders, politicians and civic figures in the City who have banded together to urge the Government to rethink UC, before it is too late.  Liverpool has been hit hard by welfare reforms and austerity cuts since 2010. In 2017 Liverpool City Council made more than 13,000 crisis payments to help people with the cost of food, fuel and clothing.  The Council and its partner believe the continued rollout of Universal Credit in the City in its current form will lead to a welfare crisis, which will see many more people suffer extreme hardship and the spectre of homelessness.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson is 1 of the many voices calling for a period of reflection and an opportunity to fix Universal Credit.  Mayor Anderson says:- "Already, we can see a spike in hardship and a rise in Council tax arrears from those who have already transitioned to UC. Not to mention the queues at foodbanks and the families struggling with things like School uniform costs. Around 55,000 Liverpool households will eventually see their claim move to Universal Credit. Most of these households have already been affected by the 'benefit freeze.' We have found that disabled people, the long term sick, single parents and working families on low incomes are amongst those disproportionately affected.  Simply put, if UC continues in its current form, people in Liverpool already facing enduring hardship will be left with even less. Levels of debt will rise, rent arrears will increase, families will be forced into food and fuel poverty and ultimately hardworking people will face the spectre of homelessness and destitution."

The partnership has produced a new publication entitled:- 'Universal Credit: Unintended Consequences,' which it hopes to put before ministers. The publication contains essays from Bishop of Liverpool, Rt Rev Paul Bayes, the chief executive of:- 'The Women's Organisation,' Maggie O'Carroll and the chief executive of the City's Chamber of Commerce Paul Cherpeau.

Headline requests from the partnership include a call for the DWP to cut the wait between applying for UC and receiving payment. Currently applicants can wait up to 35 days without cash. It also calls for Councils to be given more ring fenced funds to provide a 'local welfare scheme' based on local needs and an end to the 30 to 40 minute waiting times for connection to DWP advice and information lines.  Mayor Anderson describes the lack of co-ordination with local authorities as a "scandalous oversight." Mayor Anderson also said:- "Many Councils have been forced to abandon discretionary support amid the austerity cuts they have had to endure, which has removed a vital safety net for the poorest, but we have vowed to continue our support."

Liverpool City Council spends ₤23 million dealing with a range of crisis issues surrounding poverty and homelessness and offers a range of crisis payments and housing support above and beyond the statutory threshold. In stark contrast, the Council will have experienced a ₤444 million reduction in its funding from Central Government, by 2020.  The National Audit Office recently urged ministers to 'pause' the roll out of UC, with figures showing 40% of claimants experienced financial difficulties transitioning to the new benefit, with 20% of claimants not paid on time.  The Bishop of Liverpool, The Rt Rev Paul Bayes, warns that a move away from addressing need in the welfare system risks instilling the idea of the deserving and undeserving poor, writing that he is 'angry' and 'frustrated' at the ill effects of recent welfare changes.  The Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently reported that Liverpool is the '2nd hardest hit City in the country,' when it comes to destitution. Maggie O'Carroll, chief executive of The Women's Organisation in the City criticises Universal Credit for being a 'very real barrier' to those on benefit trying to become self employed, while the one payment per household model poses 'an even greater threat' to vulnerable women who may be at risk of domestic abuse. Meanwhile, the chief executive of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, Paul Cherpeau says that any reduction in benefits will reduce spending power in the local economy and 'stifle our capacity to start and grow businesses in the City.'   Mayor Anderson adds:- "We are urging ministers to take heed of the 'unintended consequences' of their welfare reforms and take action. We have to believe that these consequences are unintended because who would deliberately perpetuate a system that takes support away from the very poorest in society, that penalises people who are sick and disabled and takes financial support away from children?"

What are your views on this complex and emotive topic? Please email us to:- News24@SouthportReporter.Com with your thoughts...

New EEF/ComRes research underlines clear Brexit priorities for manufacturers in the North West

NEW research published today by EEF, The Manufacturers' Organisation, shows that 83% of manufacturers in the North West believe it important that Brexit negotiations ensure there are no tariffs on EU goods, and that full access to the single market is retained (81%.)

With just 6 months to go until Britain leaves the EU, 75% of North West manufacturers say that they are currently not prepared for a no deal Brexit. 49% of companies say they are not prepared and will not be preparing for what would happen if the Government fails to strike an agreement.

The EEF-commissioned ComRes survey of 500 manufacturing business decision makers nationally, including 61 in the North West, finds that 16% of manufacturers business decision makers say business would become untenable for them if the UK reverted to WTO tariffs, increased border checks on people and increased checks on goods at the border. 23% say that as a result of Brexit they have experienced, or are expecting to experience, losing out on investment, losing skilled EU workers (24%) and losing a new contract (27%.) Moreover, 30% of businesses say that they are finding or expect to find it more difficult to recruit workers with the necessary skills.

Respondents were uncertain about where future opportunities lie, with 24% not clear what their biggest post Brexit opportunity will be, but there was a definite appetite to take advantage of new trade possibilities. The survey showed that businesses see America as the top priority for a new trade deal after Brexit (52%) while 41% of businesses are already exploring, or expect to explore, new markets outside the EU.

Manufacturers are however clear on their priorities for the Brexit negotiations, with 58% highlighting the need to retain no tariff trade with the EU, 50% emphasising the importance of retaining full access to the single market. Respondents also recognised the need for new trade deals outside the EU, with 68% referencing this as a priority. There is also clear concern about investment, with 21% of respondents having either lost or expecting to lose out on investment because of Brexit. Remaining in the Customs Union was seen as important for 71% of those businesses surveyed.

EEF commissioned the research in response to ongoing calls from EEF members for greater clarity on the implications of Brexit on their day to day operations. The manufacturing industry accounts for 10% of the UK's economic output and over 2.5 million jobs. As well as the new research, EEF also published its own Brexit Audit of the Government's White Paper. This highlighted 4 key outcomes which Industry needs to see from the final negotiations to make Brexit work and amounts to an endorsement of the Prime Minister's Chequers plan. These include:

►  A properly planned, open ended implementation period for leaving the EU, likely to take many/several years, and open ended to allow trade negotiations sufficient time to conclude and the outcome to be implemented without artificial constraints.

►  Frictionless trade by ensuring no tariffs on the import of goods and ensuring British companies can continue to operate 'just in time delivery' logistics as part of an integrated supply chain.

►  An ability for workers to move into and out of the UK, ensuring British companies can fill vacancies where they have skills gaps and send workers overseas to meet the requirements of service contracts and other commercial opportunities.

►  A commitment for Britain to maintain mutually recognised, close regulatory alignment with the EU, supported by a common system of arbitration and standard setting, ensuring that British firms can produce goods that can be easily traded across Europe with clear protections in place.

Commenting, Stephen Phipson, Chief Executive at EEF, said:- "Today's research reinforces the need for manufacturers across the North West and nationally to get a deal to ensure they deliver for the UK economy. They also desperately require clarity to be able to prepare. It is absolutely crucial that an industry that accounts for 10% of the UK's economic output and almost ½ of the country's exports, prepares for exit day and all its possible implications. But currently over 80% have no plans to prepare for a scenario such as no deal. Industry is one of the jewels in the crown for the UK economy and can continue to be post Brexit. It must however be given the opportunity to adapt and build in robust Brexit preparations. The Chequers deal is a pragmatic and realistic solution which offers a practical way forward. It is now essential that the Prime Minister is given the backing to deliver on it."

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