Richard Lochhead

Moray SNP News



SNP Councillors have condemned the decision by Tory and Independent Administration Councillors in Moray not to back an SNP motion proposed by Elgin City North SNP Councillor, Paula Coy, instructing the Council Leader to lobby the UK Government to pause the rollout of Universal Credit.

Cllr Coy cited the example of Highland Council area where Universal Credit is already being rolled out and delays in payments have seen families struggle with basic bills and the Council having to deal with a leap in rent arrears as tenants have to choose whether to pay their rent or feed their family.

The call for a pause in the rollout of Universal Credit has cross-party support in Westminster and the Scottish Parliament and from charities, trade unions and Scottish Local Government body, COSLA.

Despite a heartfelt plea from Cllr Coy and backing from both Labour and the two opposition Independents, the motion was defeated by 13 votes to 12.

Speaking afterwards Cllr Coy said:

“The impact of the flawed Universal Credit rollout for families in Moray is going to be extremely bad unless the UK Government takes heed of all the warnings and the evidence from areas like Highland that show it is failing. The Council’s welfare service do a fantastic job but they will be under extreme pressure as Universal Credit rollout reaches Moray in just a few months time.

“We do not oppose Universal Credit in principle - a simplification of the welfare system is a good thing - but it cannot be used as an excuse to avoid making basic welfare payments to claimants for several weeks and plunging them into debt.

“Firstly the impact on individuals and families is cruel and callous, and could see families fighting to get out of a debt that is not of their making. Secondly the Council’s services will suffer as rent arrears increase and the pressure on our welfare support services increases.

“Other direct impacts on the Council will be dealing with homelessness caused rent arrears in other tenancies and pressure on a wide range of other services such as social care.

“The crazy thing is that the Councillors who spoke against this motion all agreed there were issues with the rollout of Universal Credit yet they couldn’t bring themselves to lobby the UK Government on this vital issue. All we were asking was for a letter of support for a pause in the rollout to be sent to the UK Government but that plea has been ignored, as have the vulnerable families in Moray that will feel the effects of these changes.”

SNP Co-Leader Cllr Shona Morrison, who seconded the motion, said:

“This failure to back our most vulnerable residents in Moray is shocking. The rollout of Universal Credit has been roundly condemned by politicians from all of the main parties, including by former Tory Prime Minister John Major.

“In these circumstances a letter setting out the council’s concerns and expressing support for a pause in the rollout is hardly a big ask.

“The lack of leadership and responsibility shown by the Council’s Administration is utterly shocking.”