SADLY, the late September warmth is being replaced by the dark and chilly evenings of winter, and as we make a seasonal retreat indoors, many will do so with an anxious eye fixed on the gas and electricity meter.

Since January, wholesale gas prices have risen 250 per cent, leading the Government to increase the energy price cap. Food prices are also creeping upwards, with inflation jumping in August by the largest increase since records began.

The cost of living is set to rise sharply, yet the Government are choosing to enforce the largest cut to social security in the history of the modern welfare state. The £20 a week uplift in Universal Credit has been a lifeline. It was an acknowledgement by Government that our welfare state had been starved of funding and that it would fail to provide an adequate safety net.

This cut will see over £1,000 a year disappear from the pockets of millions across the UK the same month that energy prices are set to rocket. With a National Insurance hike also on the horizon, family incomes are going to be squeezed.

The Government is not sleepwalking into this perfect storm of increased living costs, it is doing so with its eyes wide open. Earlier this month, I authored a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which was co-signed by all 17 Labour MPs representing the North East, imploring him to reverse his decision to cut £20 a week from our lowest earning families, 60% of whom are in work, but are not paid enough to get by. As Labour MPs we have mounted our united opposition to this policy, knowing fine well the poverty this decision will inflict in the areas we represent.

Seldom have I found myself on the same side of debate as Iain Duncan Smith MP, yet the hardship this policy choice will inflict is so obvious, he and the last five Conservative Secretaries of State for Work and Pensions have called on the Government to abandon this cut, as have a variety of organisations including the North East Child Poverty Commission, Citizens Advice County Durham, and the Bishop of Durham.

I’ve heard concerning stories from parents worried about having to choose between heating or eating this winter. They’ve reminded me of my childhood, when during my father’s unemployment in the shipyards, my mother would only put the heating on when ice started to form on the inside of our windows to save money. This shouldn’t happen in the fifth richest country in the world.

Commentators frequently remark Boris Johnson has shifted the Conservatives to the left on the economics. But by cutting the incomes of the poorest working families, against the backdrop of food prices creeping upwards and energy prices soaring, the Prime Minister has shown he is not on the side of working people. He knows nothing of the stark choices facing many in our communities.

The Government cannot control the weather, but they can ensure that the poorest families are protected from a cost-of-living crisis by cancelling the cut to Universal Credit.

  • Mary Kelly Foy is MP for the City of Durham