Edinburgh SNP councillors call for more help for struggling families

The SNP is calling for the city council to give more help to Edinburgh families struggling amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article.

A motion to the full council proposes £100 payments to households for every child who gets free school meals and an increase in the school clothing grant.

The party says the plans could be funded from the council’s underspend on its 2021/22 budget and argues both schemes are administered by the council and can be implemented easily.

A £100 grant for each child in receipt of free school meals was previously agreed and paid as part of the 2022/23 budget. The SNP said its proposal would repeat that scheme.

The SNP motion would also task council staff with drawing up further options to support low-and-middle income families during this financial year, bringing ideas back to councillors for decision at the next meeting of the full council.

SNP finance spokesperson Marco Biagi said: “Bills are rising. It’s the job of everyone in politics to find ways to help. Earlier this year, the council supplemented Scottish Government support schemes with money from our underspend.

"Now we know the underspend is a bit larger than we expected, we should up the support accordingly. I hope that all parties represented on the council will recognise the need to do this and back our proposals.

The SNP is calling for another £100 per child to be paid by the council to families which qualify for free school meals.

“Families on the lowest incomes are those being hardest hit right now, and it is right to send this help their way. But everyone is feeling the bite of rising prices. The people of Edinburgh are looking to those in charge in the chambers with expectation that they can help in these unprecedented financial times. In the SNP we are taking action and putting this on the agenda from opposition. I only hope the parties in administration recognise the situation and take it seriously.”

The SNP motion notes Bank of England predictions that inflation could reach 11 per cent later this financial year and refers to the estimated underspend of £3.9m on the council’s balanced budget passed for the 2021/22 financial year.

As well as the £100 pay-outs for children receiving free school meals, it proposes to add a one-off Living Costs Top-up Grant to the school clothing grant, increasing it to £200 per qualifying child for the coming school year. This would also be funded from the unallocated reserve funding carried over from the 21/22 underspend.

Labour’s finance convener Mandy Watt said the administration would be willing to consider the proposal but doubted if it could happen.

She said: "It would be fantastic if we could afford to do that and of course we’ll look at it. But, as SNP councillors know, we have £63 million of council cuts coming down the line and unfunded pay awards which we will be expected to meet to keep out own council staff from having a cost of living crisis.

"It’d be great to do what they’re suggesting but I really think because of what their government has in store for us in the next financial year it’s very doubtful if we can afford to do it.”

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