600,000 Scots families to feel Tory benefit freeze

George Osborne will freeze working age benefits for two years if the Tories win next year's General Election. Picture: PA
George Osborne will freeze working age benefits for two years if the Tories win next year's General Election. Picture: PA
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MORE than half a million working families in Scotland will be hit by a freeze in benefits set out by George Osborne, new analysis has found.

The Chancellor unveiled plans to freeze working agebenefits for two years if the Tories win next year’s UK election at the recent party conference.

But the plan – which would mean real term cuts to jobseekers allowance, child benefit and tax credits – would hit about 900,000 Scottish households,

according to research conducted by the Scottish Parliament.

About 600,000 would be families where at least one person is in work. It would also mean an annual cut to the Scottish welfare budget of about £250 million.

Nationalist MSP Jamie Hepburn said it underlined why decisions about welfare should be handed to Holyrood.

He said: “This new analysis shows the devastating impact George Osborne’s latest round of welfare cuts would have – impacting on one million children and leading to a £250m cut in Scotland’s welfare budget every year.

“The fact that the vast majority of families hit by the latest round of Tory welfare cuts are working families gives lie to the ludicrous Tory claim that their cuts are designed to make work pay.

“These cuts are nothing more than an attempt to punish vulnerable people and to balance the books on the back of the working poor.”

Nationalists are currently pushing for Scotland to be handed widespread control over welfare as part of the extra powers package which was promised to Holyrood during the referendum. Mr Hepburn added: “This analysis comes in the same week as a Citizens Advice Scotland report confirmed that Westminster’s welfare cuts are having a devastating impact on disabled people in Scotland – and Westminster refused Nicola Sturgeon’s request to halt the roll-out of its universal credit scheme.

“The Westminster establishment has shown time and time again that it can’t be trusted on welfare.

“It’s time that welfare powers were transferred from Westminster to Scotland – to allow us to use the welfare state to build a fairer, more equal society, rather than to punish vulnerable people and the working poor.”

Mr Osborne said the proposed freeze, which would not include pensions, disability benefits and maternity pay, would save £3 billion.

It would come into effect in 2016, if the Tories win the next election.

Across the UK, about ten million households would be affected, roughly half of which are working, as the Chancellor bids to find an extra £25bn of permanent savings.

However, Scottish Conservative welfare reform spokesman Alex Johnstone was sceptical yesterday about the parliament’s figures.

He said: “It neglects the number of people who have been brought back to work as a result of benefit improvements, and the many tax cuts that have been made for low-income workers.”

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