Concerns over financial impact on Aberdeen from benefits shake-up

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A report shows changes to benefit payments could hit people in the Granite City by nearly £30 million a year.

Post-2015 welfare reforms are expected to mean £29m of cuts for people in the city annually once fully implemented in 2020/21, according to a paper presented to a Scottish Parliament committee.

It follows a report from 2013 that suggested previous changes in 2012 would affect Aberdeen by £52m a year.

Councillor Jackie Dunbar, the SNP representative for the city’s Northfield/Mastrick North constituency, claimed the £81m combined figure taken away the city will hit her constituents hardest.

She said: “I fear that because of the downturn Aberdeen is going through, this figure, of £81m less a year by 2021, could be even higher as more people have to fall back on the safety net which our welfare system is meant to provide.

“That £81m would have gone further than just helping the most vulnerable, although that is a worthy enough cause in itself, it also would have helped support local businesses.

“A large part of that money would have gone into local shops, local bakeries and supporting the local jobs that would have made a positive and lasting impact on reducing poverty and tackling the welfare bill.”

Welfare reforms since 2015 include denying housing benefit to 18 to 21-year-olds, lowering the threshold at which Universal Credit is removed; making child tax credits available only for the first two children; a benefits cap of £20,000 in Scotland, and a benefits freeze.

The latest report came from researchers at Sheffield Hallam University.

It was presented to Parliament’s Social Security Committee.

In the paper the academics recognise the difficulties of precisely estimating the impact welfare reforms will have.

The previous report was published by the Scottish Parliament and went before its Welfare Reform Committee.

A DWP spokesman said: “Our reforms are restoring fairness and ensuring we have a welfare system that offers work for those who can, help for those who could and care for those who can’t.

“We are devolving significant new welfare powers to the Scottish Government, and we will continue to work together to ensure that devolution works for the people of Scotland and the UK.”