More than 16,000 people in Bedford will lose around £1,000 a year as a result of the Government axing the Universal Credit uplift today, figures suggest.
The decision to end the £20 a week uplift has faced strong opposition, with the first ministers of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales among high-profile politicians and campaigners who have urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to scrap the contentious proposals.
In a letter, the leaders said there was no rationale to justify cutting crucial financial support at a point when people across the UK are facing "an unprecedented squeeze on their household budgets."
Department for Work and Pensions figures show there were 16,830 people claiming Universal Credit in Bedford in July – the latest available data.
Of those, 59 per cent were not in work.
They are among more than 5.8 million claimants across the UK who may face a struggle to make ends meet, according to anti-poverty campaigners.
Despite months of campaigning, the uplift ended today (October 6), with claimants expected to receive final payments containing the uplift up to October 13.
Anti-poverty charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said the end of the uplift represented the "biggest ever overnight cut to social security" and claimed the Government's decision could plunge up to half a million people into poverty.
Katie Schmuecker, from the JRF, said: "The Prime Minister is abandoning millions to hunger and hardship with his eyes wide open."
She added the decision "flies in the face of the Government's mission to unite and level up our country".
“People’s bills won’t get cheaper from Wednesday and families are already anxious about how they will get through a looming cost of living crisis," she said.
"This decision shows a total disregard for the consequences."
A Government spokesperson said: “We’ve always been clear that the uplift to Universal Credit and the furlough scheme were temporary.
"They were designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and they have done so."
He said Universal Credit would continue to provide support for people in and out of work and added that it was right for the Government to focus on its Plan for Jobs, which aims to support people back into work and help those already working to progress.