A CONSERVATIVE council leader has come under fire after he suggested that families hit by the imminent cut to Universal Credit should look at “how many children they have”.

Wayne Fitzgerald, who heads up the Tory administration on Petersborough council in England, made the comments in an interview with BBC News on Monday morning.

The Conservative councillor was asked about slashing Universal Credit, which the Tories will push through despite repeated requests from all three devolved administrations.

Pondering whether the £20 per week decrease to Universal Credit could “give people the incentive to re-enter the workforce”, the BBC introduced Fitzgerald.

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He told the news programme: “Finances for many are at critical, but there are other ways you can go and generate some money for your family.

“I think I would be one of the first to say here that families should take responsibility for themselves, the way they live their lives, how many children they have, what they do with their tax, what jobs they have.

“There is a wealth of jobs available here in Peterborough. I could take you to any restaurant, cafe, or bar just a stone’s throw from where we’re standing here. They are really desperate for people.”

The acute staffing shortages being felt in industries including hospitality, health and social care, and haulage have been laid at the feet of the Tories' Brexit. The UK’s exit from the single market has led to a dearth of available workers, which industry leaders say seems to be a permanent and structural change.

After a clip of Fitzgerald's comments was shared online, many users condemned them. 

SNP MSP for Stirling Evelyn Tweed branding the comments “truly shameful”.

She said: “'Families should take responsibility', from a UK Government who take 0 responsibility for the multiple crises on their watch: Food, labour, fuel shortages, End of furlough, Rise in National Insurance, £20 per week cut to Universal Credit.

“Truly shameful.”

Labour councillor Nicky Brennan commented: “It is so, so disappointing to see this narrative.

“Without getting into a wider debate about how awful this view is, children are never to blame and should never be punished for existing.”

Many pointed to Boris Johnson’s children, of which he has at least six, and questioned what a family should do with their kids should they be unable to support the ones they had.

“If you find yourself unable to feed one of your children just put one back again,” one user quipped.

Referencing Jonathan Swift’s famous satirical work, an Eleanor Rees said: “Hang on: food shortages... ‘too many’ children... I'm sure we could work out a Modest Proposal going forward.”

Liberal Democrat campaigner James Brown added: “These comments from the leader of @PeterboroughCC are tone deaf. If you have kids and then the government takes away support, that is not your fault.”

Councillor Fitzgerald has been approached for comment.