NEARLY 80,000 children in Edinburgh and the Lothians are at risk from Tory cuts to tax credits, Labour’s Ian Murray claimed today.
Chancellor George Osborne is due to unveil sweeping welfare cuts in his Budget on Wednesday, in line with the Conservatives’ election promise to slash £12 billion from the benefits budget.
Tax credits like child tax credit and working tax credit – top-up payments given to low-income families – are expected to be among the benefits in the firing line.
But Mr Murray, Shadow Scottish Secretary and MP for Edinburgh South, warned cutting tax credits – first introduced by the last Labour Government to tackle in-work poverty – risked vital income to thousands of families in and around the Capital.
Labour produced official figures showing there were 37,000 children in Edinburgh in families receiving tax credits, another 21,000 in West Lothian, 9800 in East Lothian and 9600 in Midlothian.
Mr Murray said: “During the general election the Prime Minister promised the ‘good life’ for families but now he plans to cut vital support.
“With thousands of families in Scotland struggling from week to week, the absolute last people the Chancellor should target is low-income families, but instead his plans to slash welfare puts over 20,000 families in Edinburgh and nearly 40,000 children at risk. The last Labour government introduced tax credits to tackle working poverty, and it worked. There are thousands of people in Edinburgh who can attest to that.”
He said recent information showed that over 200,000 children in Scotland were living in poverty. “On what planet does slashing tax credits help those kids?” he demanded.
Some estimates suggest cuts to tax credits could make up as much as £5bn of the £12bn extra reductions in the welfare bill planned by the Chancellor as he aims for a UK budget surplus in 2019.
Mr Osborne is also expected to announce cuts to housing benefit and a lowering of the overall welfare cap.
Wednesday’s Budget is the first from a majority Conservative government since 1997. Mr Osborne is expected to temper the welfare cuts with a rise in the personal tax allowance and pledge to encourage employers to boost pay to compensate for the loss of income.
Mr Murray also urged the Scottish Government to help low-income families by adopting Labour plans to tackle poverty, by extending the living wage and banning rip-off rent rises in the private sector. He said: “The SNP Government needs to stand up for these families. New powers coming to Scotland will help but there is so much that could be done at Holyrood now.
“The SNP should back Scottish Labour plans to extend the living wage to more low-paid jobs like cleaning, catering and caring. With rents and poverty levels soaring the SNP should also back Scottish Labour plans to ban rip-off rent rises.
“Families in Edinburgh need action, not warm words from the SNP Government.”