The report on the impact of welfare reforms submitted to the full meeting of Fife Council earlier this month predicts an annual loss to the Fife economy equivalent to £655 for each adult of working age by 2020.
The impact will be uneven across Fife, hitting the most deprived areas hardest so that, while the estimated loss of purchasing power in Buckhaven, Methil and Wemyss Villages ward will shrink by £11.5M, that for St Andrews is predicted to be £3.4M. The predicted reduction in Cupar is £4.7M and roughly the same for Howe of Fife, Tay Coast and Tay Bridgehead wards.
Highlighting the figures, Councillor Karen Marjoram “I think the impact of welfare reform has not yet manifested itself on the collective consciousness of many Fifers. The effect of welfare reform and Universal Credit cannot be understated”.
An update on the impact of Universal Credit showed that in February there were 6226 tenants in Fife on Universal Credit with 480 Council tenants being added to the system every month. As of February, Council rent arrears had reached a total of £1.5M, an average of £246 per tenant.
Councillor Co-leader David Alexander described Universal Credit as an “unmitigated disaster”. He noted that the welfare reforms had led to a “huge rise in foodbank use” and said the 6 week wait (now 5 weeks) for the first Universal Credit payment had “caused huge issues for families”. He called for the UK Government to “reverse course”.
Notes: 1. The Scottish Government is due to take over responsibility for welfare in 2021; 2. QV has previously reported on the increase in foodbank use across NE Fife.