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Social Justice

Sunak plans pool, gym and tennis court at his mansion while cutting benefits

Rishi Sunak is planning lavish developments in the grounds of his mansion, but won’t budge on calls not to cut universal credit

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has gained permission to build a swimming pool, tennis court and gym at his North Yorkshire mansion just weeks before cutting universal credit for millions and ending furlough support.

Hambleton District Council granted planning permission for the development at the grounds of the grade II listed house, the Northern Echo reported, where Sunak has lived since before being elected MP for the area in 2015.

But people have hit out at the chancellor for going ahead with the works – which will include construction of a stone building to house the swimming pool, an outdoor tennis court and a wildlife area – when campaigners, opposition MPs and former Tory welfare ministers are calling for him to scrap the planned £20-a-week cut to universal credit.

“I’m sure the universal credit claimants having to go back to surviving on £70 per week will be overjoyed for him,” said author Clive Hallam on Twitter.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said the cut, scheduled for the end of September, will be the biggest overnight reduction in the basic rate of social security payments since the Second World War.

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“Never underestimate how much these c**ts are laughing at us,” tweeted Jonathan Pie, the fictional reporter created and played by comedian Tom Walker, in response to the reports.

The government introduced the temporary universal credit increase at the start of the pandemic to support people through the financial shock of the pandemic. Removing it will cost the more than 5.5 million claimants more than £1,000 per year each and could push 200,000 children into poverty, the JRF warned.

“Can he now approve UBI [universal basic income] please?” Paul Budding tweeted.

Welfare minister Will Quince previously told MPs the government had made no assessment of the cut’s potential effect on women, ethnic minorities and those in deprived parts of the UK – the people worst-affected by pandemic poverty – but confirmed ministers would still remove the £20-per-week increase on October 6.

The DWP said it was “not possible to produce a robust estimate” of how the autumn benefits decrease could impact child poverty or those in work but still struggling to make ends meet, who make up the bulk of those claiming it.

“The magic money tree has been replanted,” said another Twitter user.

The Treasury will also end the furlough scheme at the end of September, despite nearly two million workers still being on the job retention initiative. There are fears among the industries still feeling the impact of the pandemic, such as aviation and tourism, that people could lose their jobs entirely when ministers remove financial support from employers.

Laura Smith, former Labour MP for Crewe, tweeted: “These people seriously couldn’t care less.”

Rishi Sunak was not mentioned by name at the meeting but council members reported having been to visit the property ahead of granting planning permission.

At least 700,000 people were plunged into poverty during the pandemic, the Legatum Institute said, meaning around 15 million are living below the breadline across the UK.

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