WIRRAL West MP Margaret Greenwood has said reforms to Universal Credit announced in yesterday's Budget do not go far enough to help low income families struggling to pay bills.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that those claiming the benefit will now have to wait five weeks, rather than six, to receive their first payment from February 2018.

The reforms followed mounting pressure to act after reports that many people were getting into rent arrears, problem debt or having to use food banks while waiting to receive the benefit.

It was also announced that housing benefit claimants could continue to receive it for an extra two weeks while waiting for their universal credit payments to start.

Ms Greenwood MP cautiously welcomed the reform but added that with inflation overall at nearly 3% and food prices rising at the highest rate for four years, she would further pressure on the Government to ensure no families are pushed into poverty.

She said "Just a few weeks ago, the government was defeated in the House of Commons over their plans for Universal Credit.

"After strong pressure by Labour and a long list of voluntary organisations, it's welcome that the government is at last listening to the widespread concern about the problems with Universal Credit.

Wirral Globe:

Margaret Greenwood MP

"However, the changes announced today don't go anything like far enough to fix it and they will not even start until the New Year, leaving tens of thousands of families with children facing a bleak Christmas.

"Food prices are rising at their highest rate for four years and the Trussell Trust recently reported that foodbanks in areas where the full service of UC has been rolled out have seen a 30% increase in requests for help in the first six months compared to last year.

"The Chancellor failed again to reverse cuts to work incentives in Universal Credit which were meant to ensure that work always pays as people enter employment.

"27 million households are expected to be claiming Universal Credit by 2022.

"The full service of Universal Credit is being introduced in Wirral this month and I will be keeping up the pressure on the government to try to ensure that people are not pushed into poverty by a benefit supposed to prevent it."