East Lothian Courier – 23 September 2021


Parliament debated cuts to Universal Credit last week. A few Tories spoke out against it knowing the severe hardship it’s going to cause. They included former social security Ministers who know just how inadequate our benefits system is. But as ever Boris Johnsons large majority drove it home.

I spoke in it, mentioning how I’m from a generation who viewed work as the route out of poverty and full employment as the best way of increasing wages. But that orthodoxy no longer applies. Upwards of 40% of UC claimants are working. It’s all part of the low wage economy that now exists. Long hours and often multiple jobs are still inadequate and both benefits and foodbanks are required by many simply to survive. It’s all really shameful.

It’s also why the increase in National Insurance likewise driven home by the Tories last week will hurt the lowest paid most. Scant reward for all those working in the care or service sector who’ve been unable to work from home and have been facing the highest risk during this pandemic.

But the NIC increase won’t just hit individuals but us all collectively. It’ll hit council budgets as it’s also paid by all employers, including councils. Local authority budgets are already strapped for cash and council services are being cut. This additional blow from Westminster comes on top of the cuts imposed from Holyrood.

Yet council services are as important to our communities as those provided by central government, sometimes even more so as they’re in critical areas like social care, education and refuse. I know the frustration many have with reduced services yet having to pay more in council tax.

It’s not the fault of council staff who are working hard and often under stressful conditions. It’s also not good enough for the Scottish Government to bail out the odd service and claim the credit. I’m sure all councils would provide free music tuition in schools, if they had the cash. The Scottish Government would be better funding councils properly not boasting about what would be done anyway if they did so.