Essex County Council has defended the government’s decision to remove as much as 22 per cent of the income from some of the poorest in Essex.

More than 20,000 households – made up of single people without children – face a reduction in their payments of 22 per cent, the county council has calculated.

Around 79,800 Essex households receiving Universal Credit in May 2021 – with an average weekly payment of £188.49 – face a reduction of £20 with the ending of the temporary uplift.

This represents a reduction in their entitlement of 11 per cent.

There is, however, a lot of variation.

Around a quarter of households, amounting to approximately 20,200 receive less than £92 per week.

For this group the uplift accounts for at least 21 per cent of their entitlement.

Another quarter receive over £253 per week, for whom the uplift accounts for at most 8 per cent of their entitlement.

The county council has said that by far the most exposed group are single people without children, who are not paying rent.

This represents around 21,400 households in Essex.

The average entitlement among this group is £89.66 per week – and the removal of the uplift represents a 22 per cent reduction in their entitlement.

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Cabinet Member for Finance, Resources and Corporate Affairs. said: “There has been direct support for the most financially vulnerable throughout the pandemic, not least through the Essential Living Fund, with a total of around £2.5m.

“The majority of this has gone to families with children and single parents, through the provision of food / fuel cards and essential items such as bedding, replacement fridges and ovens.

“In addition, an announcement has been made for further support for vulnerable households through local government through the £500m Household Support Fund.

“Essex will receive £9.437m to support us through to March 31 2022, of which at least 50 per cent is to support family households. His will help us to continue to support the most financially vulnerable with essential household costs such as food and essentials linked to energy and water e.g. sanitary products, warm clothing, soap, blankets, boiler repair.”