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This weekend, a protest against the upcoming cut to universal credit is set to take place in Lancaster. The event has been arranged by ‘Universal Resistance: Morecambe and Lancaster,’ a group recently formed to combat the upcoming universal credit cut and spread awareness of the effects it has on the local Lancaster and Morecambe communities. ‘Universal Resistance’ also aims to raise awareness for and tackle wider issues surrounding poverty, such as, rising food and energy bills, renter eviction threats, local worker pay and working conditions.
The protest will start at 1 PM on the 2nd October (this Saturday) in Market Square and is set to feature key speakers: Joanna Young – a Green Party City Councillor, Ian Hodson (President of the Baker’s Food and Allied Workers Union) and local County Councillor, Lizzi Collinge. It will also be a space for members of the local community to voice their feelings on the cut and its effects.
The removal of the £20 Universal Credit uplift is scheduled to come into effect on the 6th October and, whilst benefits cuts at any time are wrong, the timing of this cut will prove particularly difficult considering the expected spike in energy and fuel prices (details on this can be found in a separate SCAN article, click here). It also blatantly ignores the ensuing economic and social effects of the pandemic as new daily cases still exceed 30,000.
With this planned decrease in Universal Credit, it is clear that the government remains ignorant to the value of £20 to low income families and individuals; where the price of a light lunch for certain affluent members of society could secure an entire weeks’ worth of meals for those who rely on Universal Credit.
The cut will affect 13,500 people in the Lancaster and Morecambe area alone, 60% of whom are working families.
The cut would also affect a proportion of students, like those who care for children, receive disability benefits or who come from low income families. With recent proposals to reduce loan repayment thresholds, supporting this weekend’s protest may prove essential to achieving campus-town solidarity in support of future students having to protest to defend themselves.
‘Universal Resistance’ gave a comment to SCAN about the wider hopes of the organisers and student support for the event:
“The protest organisers hope to launch a movement against poverty that takes up wider issues.
Rising food and energy bills will combine with the cut to drive millions into poverty. So the movement will support renters against eviction threats, and workers and trades unionists fighting to defend pay and conditions.”
“These issues – rising energy and food bills, exploitative landlords also affect students. So the protest organisers encourage unity between the students and the local working classes to fight for a better deal for all.”
“Finally, there are the general moral, ethical and social reasons for students to join the protest on Saturday, even for those not directly affected by the cut: students who want to live in a more equal society, where their fellow citizens and cityfolk are not suffering and watching their families go hungry and cold this winter.”
As can be seen with the organisation of the protest this weekend, it has fallen to local communities, families and small businesses to come to the aid of those in need, whilst the Conservative government, rather than protecting the vulnerable, seems untroubled to take from them.
However, with local action – like this weekend’s protest in Lancaster – a steadfast show of support against the cut may prove enough to overturn it, or at least postpone it for some time.
If this is the case, and the cut is scrapped, it will be the achievement of those like the organisers and attendees of Saturday’s event who have rallied against the inconsiderate whims of Johnson’s government.