RENT ARREARS

The roll out of Universal Credit is already taking its toll on local councils

bellsmyre from garshake

Bellsmyre, Castlehill, Brucehill and Westcliff pictured from Maryland at Garshake.

By Bill Heaney

Rent arrears are beginning to pile up, according to SNP MSP David Torrance.  Universal credit has had a devastating impact on people in Scotland, Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, Shirley-Anne Somerville, told the Scottish Parliament.

The Minister told the Scottish Parliament on Thursday: “As of November 2018, there were around 135,000 people in Scotland in receipt of universal credit.

“The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities’ evidence shows that the average arrears for those on universal credit are more than 2.5 times the average arrears for those on housing benefit.

“Although we welcome reports that the Westminster vote on universal credit managed migration regulations will now be scaled back to a vote on a pilot scheme for 10,000 people, we will continue to call on the United Kingdom Government not to commence managed migration until the fundamental flaws with that catastrophic benefit are fixed.”

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Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, Shirley-Anne Somerville.

Mr Torrance said that in his own area of Fife, the level of council rent arrears directly attributable to the roll-out of universal credit currently exceeds £1.1 million.

He asked: “Does the cabinet secretary agree that such an increase, which is being suffered by many local authorities, will have a devastating effect on planned housing programmes and continued investment in housing stock across Scotland?”

Shirley-Anne Somerville replied that the Government introduced the council house building programme in April 2009— “the first such central Government support to councils in a generation. The most recently published statistics show that a total of 10,293 council homes have now been delivered.”

She added: “Council house building continues to be an integral part of the 58,000 affordable homes target for this parliamentary session. We are determined to meet that target despite the additional challenges posed by UK Government welfare cuts.

“We will deliver on our promises in housing and in other welfare areas, despite the budget cuts from Westminster and the callous welfare policies administered by the Conservative Government.”

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