Chancellor urged to use Budget measures to protect households from further austerity

Derek Mackay
Derek Mackay

The Scottish Government is calling on Chancellor Philip Hammond to abandon their “failed” austerity agenda and stop the rollout of Universal Credit to enable “fundamental flaws” to be fixed.

Finance secretary Derek Mackay has written to Mr Hammond asking him to use his Autumn Budget to make improvements to the payments system, which he said disproportionately hurts the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

In his letter to the chancellor, Mr Mackay said the announcement by the work and pensions secretary to offer Universal Credit advances upfront would “do nothing to fix the fundamental design flaws with Universal Credit”.

He said: “The Universal Credit system is fundamentally flawed and causing unnecessary hardship and suffering to families across Scotland.

“It is vital that the UK government addresses these failings and that the roll-out is halted until the problems are fixed.

“I strongly urge the chancellor to use the autumn Budget to pause the roll-out, reduce the first payment wait time to a maximum of four weeks, move to a twice-monthly payment system and reverse cuts to work allowances.

“These measures would help ease financial pressures and stop pushing more families into poverty.”

The finance secretary also called on Mr Hammond to reverse cuts to Child Tax Credits, reconsider the reduction to ESA work-related activity and unfreeze the Local Housing Association (LHA) rates.

He added that the Scottish Government remained “steadfast in its opposition to the government’s austerity agenda which disproportionately hurts the poorest and most vulnerable in society”.

“We believe the UK government position of persisting with the same failed austerity agenda continues to damage public services and the economy,” he said.

The UK government said the vast majority of people were paid their Universal Credit in full and on time.

A spokesman said: “The best way to help people improve their lives is through work, and Universal Credit claimants are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than the old system.

“The vast majority of people are paid their Universal Credit in full and on time and advance payments and budgeting support is available for anyone who needs extra help.

“Meanwhile, the Scottish government now has significant welfare powers including flexibility over Universal Credit payments.”

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