More funding to help the most vulnerable is needed from the UK Government, West Dunbartonshire councillors have agreed, as they warned jobs and services could be at risk due to an £18.3 million budget shortfall.
During the most recent full council meeting, a motion was brought before members by leader of the opposition, councillor Karen Conaghan, asking the chief executive to write to the UK Government to increase benefits to help the most vulnerable through the cost of living crisis.
The motion asked that the UK government increase benefits to help protect those in need of welfare assistance from ever increasing costs for energy and food.
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Speaking about her motion, councillor Conaghan, said: “The UK Government is in utter crisis and an absolute riot most of the time recently.
“There seems to be a strong narrative which is about rewarding those at the very top who are most able to bear the cost of living crisis, looking after their interests while not rewarding those at the bottom end of the scale who are in the most need of assistance.
“This is about West Dunbartonshire making it clear that we know people are desperately in need and they are more deserving than those who are at the top end of the scale in terms of their interests being looked after.”
An amendment was then brought forward by the Labour leader, councillor Martin Rooney, which focussed on the impact the crisis was having on pensioners and asked for “fair funding” from the Scottish Government to help retain jobs and services.
It read: “Following the budget in March, the SNP administration left no free reserves and a £13.8 million budget gap to be closed by March 2023. Unfortunately due to increased energy costs the budget gap has increased to £18.3 million.
“These are extremely difficult financial times and the previous SNP administration left West Dunbartonshire totally unprepared for the challenges ahead.
“The Scottish Government has indicated that Scottish councils will see their budget decrease by 7% in real terms over the next three years.
“All of the above puts pressure on hard pressed council services. The chief executive is asked to write to the cabinet secretary for finance calling on the Scottish Government to provide fair funding to help protect services and jobs.
“In addition this council notes that despite inflation, the UK Government only increased pensions by 3.1%. This represents a real term cut for pensioners.
“The council is concerned about the welfare of our citizens as they struggle with the cost of living with rising food and energy prices. Therefore this council asks the chief executive to write to the UK government to increase pensions to at least the rate of inflation so that households can manage.”
Speaking about the amendment councillor Rooney added: “We are well aware of the cost of living crisis but we have also got underfunding of West Dunbartonshire for the last number of years which has ended up with an £18.3 million funding gap which does put jobs and services at risk.
“We need the government to do its bit.”
But Labour was accused of playing party politics by SNP councillors.
Councillor Gordon Scanlon said: “I think that the motion was non political and an opportunity for a unified approach. Our party and the administration both agree about the damage the UK Government is doing to this United Kingdom.
“What we disagree on is the route on how we fix that. I think the amendment was a needless attack on the SNP which councillor Rooney understands we are not going to support.
“This motion was an opportunity for all councillors across the chamber to understand that all benefits should be uplifted. If we accept the amendment, it's an opportunity missed for a unified approach across the chamber for all councillors.”
Following the debate a vote was taken and the amendment passed.
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