Scottish Government mitigating impact of UK Government cuts.
A package of budget measures will help protect low income households and some of the most vulnerable people in society from the UK Government's austerity agenda, Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil has announced.
Against a backdrop of real term cuts from the UK Government, Mr Neil said the Draft Budget for 2016-17 will aim to tackle poverty and inequalities and protect family budgets. This support includes:
- £35 million to fully mitigate the 'bedroom tax'
- £38 million for the Scottish Welfare Fund which gives emergency support or helps people stay in and set up their home
- Up to £343 million to protect vulnerable households from increased council tax liabilities through the Council Tax Reduction Scheme
- Maintaining free higher education
- Funding for free prescriptions and eye checks
- Free concessionary travel for older, disabled and young people
- Free school meals for P1 – P3 children
- Free personal and nursing care
- Freezing the council tax for the ninth year
The Scottish Government has also set a public sector pay policy for 2016-17 that, unlike the UK Government, targets support for those on low incomes. This includes a requirement on employers to pay the Scottish Living Wage and increases to £22,000 the low pay threshold beneath which employees receive a minimum pay increase of more than one per cent. The No Compulsory Redundancy policy is also maintained.
Mr Neil said:
"The Scottish Government's Draft Budget sets out measures which will defend and protect people from some of the worst measures of the UK Government's austerity agenda. Our investment will fully mitigate the bedroom tax, provide emergency support to people in crisis and protect people from the worst of the UK Government's real terms cuts.
"The Scottish Government's support for free school meals, prescriptions, tuition fees, concessionary travel and personal and nursing care will ensure Scotland is the best place in the world to grow up and live. Our new social security powers will, in time, also give us the chance to tailor the benefits being devolved, specifically to Scottish people's needs. We have already outlined measures such as increasing Carer's Allowance to the level of JSA that will take a fairer approach to new powers.
"Without this package of support the Chancellor's Autumn Statement and attack on low paid families will only widen the gap between the richest and poorest people in our society, and do nothing to tackle the deep-rooted inequalities that exist in Scotland."
Full budget document www.gov.scot/Publications/2015/12/9056