BORIS Johnson has told benefits claimants they should count on their own “efforts” to boost their income rather than relying on welfare.

The Prime Minister made the suggestion as he defended cuts to “lifeline” Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit payments.

The benefits were increased by £20 per week during the pandemic, but the Tory government has vowed to reduce the £1000-a-year boost on October 6 – despite warnings from charities and even some Conservative MPs.

Justifying the decision to slash Universal Credit, Johnson said: “My strong preference is for people to see their wages rise through their efforts rather than through taxation of other people put into their pay packets, rather than welfare.

He added: “The key focus for this government is on making sure that we come out of Covid strongly, with a jobs-led recovery, and I’m very pleased to see the way the unemployment numbers, the unemployment rate has been falling, employment has been rising, but also wages have been rising.”

The Tory leader was rebuked by opposition politicians, and faces the threat of rebellion from his own benches.

READ MORE: Interactive map shows how Universal Credit cuts will hit families across Scotland

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds told HuffPost UK: “The Prime Minister is simply wrong to say it’s a choice between his £1000 a year cut and getting people back into work.

“Almost half of those receiving Universal Credit are already in work. His ignorance doesn’t excuse the massive cut he is about to inflict on millions of hard working families.

“If he really wants to back working people he should see sense, cancel his cut to Universal Credit and raise the minimum wage to at least £10 an hour.”

Two Conservative MPs have penned a letter to their leader, urging a rethink on the cuts.

READ MORE: Tory donor provided £52,000 to cover PM’s flat refurbishments

John Stevenson and Peter Aldous told Johnson there are “no sensible voices calling for Universal Credit to be scrapped” and called for the uplift to become permanent in order to provide people with “stability and security”.

They added: “This could be one of our best legacies from the pandemic and can provide the cornerstone of a social security system of which, as Conservatives, we can be proud.”

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith is among those backing a cross-party effort to force a U-turn.

Smith, who introduced the Universal Credit system, is among six former work and pensions secretaries urging the Prime Minister to change his mind.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has warned that axing the welfare uplift will result in the “biggest overnight cut in benefits since the Second World War”.

Johnson stood by his government's welfare cuts as it was revealed a Tory donor provided more than £52,000 to cover some of the costs of the lavish renovations to his Downing Street residence.

Conservative Party accounts said its central office provided a “bridging loan” of £52,802 to cover the works after being invoiced by the Cabinet Office in June last year.

The party was “reimbursed in full” by Lord Brownlow in October, before Johnson “settled the costs” incurred by the Conservative peer in March.