Cuts will hit the poorest, most vulnerable and disabled in Scotland

The Coalition's welfare cuts will hit the “poorest, most vulnerable and those with disabilities” in Scotland, a new report out today reveals.

Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, has raised the prospect of further cuts to the welfare budget. Pressed in an interview with the Scotsman over the Chancellor’s announcement of an extra £4 billion of cuts, Mr Alexander said:

“I think I wouldn’t want to say it was going to be limited to that amount.”

His interview comes as the Lib Dem conference will today debate a motion (pages 37-39) calling on Liberal Democrat ministers:

“… to work to ensure that the most vulnerable in society are not disproportionately affected by the government’s austerity measures.”

A new report has concluded, however, that the Government’s cuts to the welfare budget equate to the Scottish economy losing between £514 and £614 million.

The research, by the Scottish Local Government Forum Against Poverty and Rights Advice Scotland, continues by citing a study undertaken by the Fraser of Allander Institute for Glasgow City Council in 2003 which estimated (page 6) that:

“… the £10.795m of additional benefits generated by the activities of GCCWRS [Glasgow City Council Welfare Rights Services] creates a total of 258 additional jobs across Scotland.”

Using these figures, the groups estimate (page 4) that the loss to the Scottish economy could cost between 11,900-14,220 additional jobs, with the decision to use the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rather than the Retail Price Index (RPI) to calculate the uprating of benefits and allowances mainly to blame.

Key findings from the report include:

• Seventy five per cent of housing benefit claimants in Scotland will face a total loss of £27,312,100;

• A fifth of those currently claiming disability living allowance will face a total loss of £259,571,203;

• £235,852,587 will be lost as a result of new medical tests for those in receipt of incapacity benefit;

• As a result of the decision to uprate benefits in line with CPI rather than RPI, those dependant on benefits such as carers allowance, child benefit, attendance allowance and job seekers allowance face total annual losses of £92,074,512;

• £17 billion in pension payments will be denied to more than 300,000 public sector pension recipients over the next 20 years.

The report goes on to provide a breakdown of how the Government’s welfare policies will affect each local authority across Scotland. Included are estimates of annual losses (page 18) of between £18,111,317 and £21,583,595 to the Highland Council area, the authority covering Danny Alexander’s Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey constituency.

Likewise Borders Council, which covers Lib Dem Scottish Secretary Michael Moore’s Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk seat, faces annual losses (page 22) of between £8,408,089 – £9,944,459. In publishing the report, Councillor Willie Hogg, chair of the Scottish Local Government Forum Against Poverty, concluded:

“As the report shows, the cuts equate to reducing the spending power of every woman, man and child in Scotland by around £100. But the reality is that the poorest, most vulnerable and those with disabilities will be burdened with shouldering the weight of these cuts because it is their benefits that are most affected. These cuts will also prove to be a huge setback in the ongoing fight against child poverty, any recent progress will be more than undone.”

Meanwhile, Grahame Smith, General Secretary of the Scottish TUC has warned:

“The choice for Scottish Liberal Democrats is clear, you can choose to buttress the most draconian attack on welfare in a generation or join with wider civic Scotland in calling for a better way.”

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