CORRESPONDENCE received in response to concerns raised by the local council over the cessation of the £20 Universal Credit increase during Covid, showed that Stormont has the power “to set its own social security rates.
Previously, a member tried to raise the point but was prevented from doing so by what he called “misinformation”.
Chief Executive Alison McCullagh explained a response from the Department for Work and Pensions: “Refers to the Northern Ireland Executive who has operational responsibility and could set a Universal Credit Rate independent of the UK Government.
Independent adviser Donal O’Cofaigh said: ‘It is very important that the council take note of this as I had a proposal ruled out of order when it was said that the executive is not responsible for social security policy in Northern Ireland, and yet we have a document which states precisely the truth. The Northern Ireland Executive is responsible and can set the Universal Credit rate independently of the UK government. That’s exactly what I said and I was ruled inadmissible on the basis of false information.
Independent Councilor Emmet McAleer called the post “very disappointing” and asked if Councilor O’Cofaigh could re-offer his previous suggestion.
“Looking at the letter, I don’t know why the proposal was deemed ineligible. Obviously there was a different understanding at the time,” he said.
Councilor McAleer also objected to a section of the letter that said the government’s priority was to protect people’s lives and livelihoods.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.
“I think the fact that we were learning as NHS staff had to bring their own PPE to work, Boris Johnston and the like were hosting booze parties. It is simply outrageous.
“No one believes a word from these people. The government has always said the best way to support people’s decent wages is to do good work, better skills and higher wages, but they refuse to pay a raise for NHS staff.
“It’s beyond ridiculous that these people expect us to take them seriously. They live in a fantasy land with respect to the reality faced by many residents of this district.
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Posted: 9:26 a.m. Jan 31, 2022