Labour MSPs last week failed to support measures introduced by the SNP Scottish Government to help some of the poorest people in the country deal with a UK Government cut to Council Tax benefit.
Last April, included in a range of changes to social security benefits, the UK Tory-Lib Dem Government slashed 10% from the amount covering Council Tax payments. This meant the unemployed and others in receipt of benefits would have to make-up the shortfall in Council Tax payments due to local authorities. Recognising that people already struggling on inadequate benefits would not be able to pay the money that now fell due to them, the SNP Scottish Government introduced the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, which used Scottish Parliament powers to replace the Council Tax benefit cut by Westminster.
However, last Tuesday (November 5), at a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee, Labour members failed to back regulations required to pass the policy. Labour MSPs were in the minority and other committee members ensured the regulations were passed, but the SNP Government pointed out that the actions of Labour MSPs could have resulted in some of the poorest people in Scotland losing out to the tune of £40m.
The funding had previously been agreed by the SNP Government and the Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities.
Local SNP MSP Margaret Burgess said, “Labour MSPs should be ashamed of their actions. If Labour had succeeded, some of the most vulnerable people in North Ayrshire would have lost out by an average of £75 a week, more than 7,000 people aged over 65, over 2,000 people in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance and over 2000 lone parents.”
The MSP for Cunninghame South noted, “Labour demands that Scotland uses the powers we already have to mitigate against Westminster welfare cuts but when the Scottish Government uses those powers, Labour tries to derail it.
"Scotland’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme is protecting over half-a-million people from Westminster’s cut to Council Tax benefit – that's pensioners, families, single person households and disabled people.”
Mrs Burgess, also the Scottish Government Minister for Housing and Welfare, said, “It is only because the SNP has a majority in Parliament that we have been able to protect the integrity of the Council Tax freeze and, with the limited powers available to the Scottish Parliament, we have done everything we can to mitigate the impact of Westminster’s welfare-cutting policies.”