Conservatives pledge to scrap benefits freeze in 2020 as General Election looms

The benefits freeze is to end in April, the Government has confirmed, in a move criticised by Labour as a "cynically-timed announcement".

Universal Credit will rise 1.7% in line with inflation and the state pension will increase by 3.9% - making it worth an extra £344 pounds a year - the Department for Work and Pensions said on Sunday.

Labour said "nobody will be fooled" by the announcement that comes in the run-up to the December 12 election.

The DwP said the end to the freeze would cost £5 billion per year. Credit: PA

The DwP said the end to the freeze introduced by Tory former chancellor George Osborne would cost £5 billion per year and ministers have said the decision to end the freeze will help 10 million people.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood said: "Nobody will be fooled by this cynically timed announcement which even now will leave the benefits freeze in place until next April."

She added: "Harsh, punitive Conservative policies like the benefits freeze, the two-child limit and the five-week wait have created a society where people are being forced to turn to food banks in ever increasing numbers just to survive.

"Labour will abolish the benefits freeze, scrap Universal Credit and put an end to the two-child limit. We will ensure that our social security system genuinely protects people from poverty as it should."

Shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood said ‘nobody will be fooled’ by the announcement Credit: PA

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said: "We’re clear the best way for people to improve their lives is through work but we know some people require additional support.

"Our balanced fiscal approach has built a strong economy, with 3.6 million more people in work since 2010.

"And it’s that strong economy which allows us to bolster the welfare safety net by increasing benefit payments for working-age claimants now."

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey Credit: PA

But the Resolution Foundation think-tank said the announcement was a missed opportunity.

Senior economic analyst Adam Corlett said: "The benefit freeze was always due to end next year.

"The Government’s confirmation that working-age benefits will only keep pace with rising prices means there will be no increase in living standards, and those in need of extra support will continue to be left behind.

"With child poverty at risk of hitting record highs, this is a missed opportunity to provide a much-needed boost for low to middle-income families."