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    UK Local Councils Face Extra Bills Softening Blow of Universal Credit – Labour

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    LONDON (Sputnik) – The United Kingdom’s local authorities are forced to spend funds to cover additional rent arrears in support for tenants set to face further reduction in income when transferred to the Universal Credit benefit, the opposition Labour party said in a statement, citing data received from freedom of information requests, on Friday.

    Universal Credit, which is being implemented gradually across the United Kingdom by the Conservative government, replaces a number of benefits, including child tax credit and housing benefit, with a single payment.

    "[Freedom of Information] requests submitted by Labour reveal Councils are committing funds towards offsetting and preparing for the impact of Universal Credit over and above Discretionary Housing Payments provided by the Department for Work and Pensions. The data shows some Councils are having to provide additional rent arrears support and increase staffing as well as working with their local food banks and Citizens Advice to offset the impact of Universal Credit," the statement read.

    Labour's Shadow Minister for Employment Margaret Greenwood said in a statement that Universal Credit was causing "misery and hardship for thousands of families this Christmas, and councils are being expected to pick up the pieces."

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    "It's clear that Councils are committing their own valuable resources from already stretched budgets to offset the impact of Universal Credit and to prepare for the damage its roll out could cause. This is yet more evidence that the government should immediately pause the roll out of Universal Credit so its fundamental flaws can be fixed," Greenwood added.

    Particularly, Newcastle City Council said it was spending nearly 400,000 pounds ($540,720) attempting to support the Universal Credit claimants, with nearly a quarter of the funds being directed toward aiding those struggling to pay rent.

    In a similar vein, the Council for Bath and North East Somerset said it had spent almost three quarters of its Discretionary Housing Payments assistance funds for 2017 on supporting Universal Credit claimants.

    Universal Credit has proved one of the UK government's most controversial attempts at welfare reform over the past year. Whereas supporters maintain it simplifies the welfare system by delivering a single monthly payment for individual recipients to manage on their own initiative, critics note long waiting periods and bureaucratic mismanagement as points of concern.

    Food banks also claim to have witnessed a sizable increase in claimants in areas where Universal Credit has been fully implemented, with campaigners citing long waiting times for payments putting those on low incomes at risk of food insecurity.

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