CRITICS have described as “stomach-churning” the revelation that Tory councillors were running a sweepstake on when Universal Credit cuts would be mentioned at a meeting.

The UK Government slashed a £20-per-week uplift in the benefit earlier this month, despite warnings it could push millions of people into poverty.

At a council meeting in Kent last month, Conservative councillors suggested they had placed bets on when opposition representatives would refer to the cut.

At a sessions of the council’s Health Overview and Security Committee, Labour politician Karen Constantine raised the issue.

A clip of the resulting exchange has now gone viral on social media.

She said: "I can hear my colleagues groaning but really this is about prevention being better than cure and what we do now stores up enormous problems for the future."

Tory councillor Paul Bartlett, chair of the committee, replied: "The reason why you heard collective groans is because some colleagues have lost the sweepstake as to when the £20 Universal Credit would be mentioned at this meeting.”

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Attendees appeared to be visibly shaken by the remark.

Constantine added: "I wonder how many of my colleagues have spent time in food banks, or visited the kitchens of people where the cupboards are actually bare, and then we wonder why an eating disorder epidemic."

She subsequently shared a video of the exchange on Twitter, posting: "Ever wondered what the Tory’s (sic) really think about poverty? Well - it’s a joke."

Labour MP and shadow child poverty secretary Wes Streeting added: "Kent Conservatives running a sweepstake on how long it takes for the Universal Credit cut to be mentioned in their meeting. It’s all just a big laugh to them. They have no idea what losing over £20 a week is doing to families in Kent and across England."

Bartlett has now been forced to apologise for the comment, stating his "choice of words" were "insensitive". However, he did not deny the sweepstake had been organised.

"I very much regret the comment that I made during the meeting and apologise that the choice of words was insensitive,” the Tory councillor said.

"I would like to stress that I have the utmost sympathy for anyone struggling financially and that my comment was not, in any way, made in order to offend or upset anyone.

"The comment about Universal Credit was made in response to Cllr Constantine raising the issue of health outcomes for those on lower incomes – something that the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee strives to address in everything we do."