David Virgo’s monthly Conservative View

Tuesday November 1st 2022


This View has been written by David Virgo, Leader of the Conservative Group on Midlothian Council, Councillor for Bonnyrigg and Lasswade.

As a member of the cross-party working group on the Cost-of-Living crisis, it was great to see agreement at full council on the latest report setting out how the council is channelling much-needed additional support to our residents. Several routes were agreed upon, including significant extra funding for our trusted community partners to disperse in their localities for those most in need.

It was frustrating that regardless of the cross-party element to the working group, there were those who felt it necessary to point the finger at the UK government as the sole reason for the current situation. Pointing out that a global pandemic and Russian warmongering can’t really be put on the Conservatives is starting to be repetitive and tedious.

For clarity, it is worth pointing out that the UK Government is also spending £37 billion on a package to address the cost-of-living crisis. This includes a rise in the National Living Wage, meaning an extra £1,000 in the pockets of the lowest earners. The UK Government has also cut the Universal Credit taper rate and increased work allowances, representing an effective tax cut for low-income working households in receipt of Universal Credit. The point at which National Insurance is paid has also been raised, putting more money in the pockets of the lowest earners by more than £330 a year. The UK Government have also cut fuel duty by 5p per litre to ease rising costs on motorists, saving drivers £100 this year.

In addition, the UK Government is also providing a third of households in the UK £1,200 this year, to assist with high energy bills. This increases to up to £1,650 for some households with older and disabled people.

The UK Government has given the Scottish Government £290 million as part of the funding for the council tax rebate rollout across the UK. As council tax is devolved in Scotland, it is the responsibility of the Scottish Government to pass on the funding.

The SNP have numerous devolved powers including control over social security and taxation powers which they can utilise to help ease the rise in the cost of living. The SNP must step up and use these powers to their full extent to ease the cost-of-living crisis.

However, as of June 2022, £41 million had not been allocated and it is unclear what the Scottish Government intend to do with this money. The SNP previously failed to spend £650 million of Scotland’s 2021/22 budget, money which could have been used in tackling the cost of living.

The SNP Government are also choosing this time of crisis to spend £20 million and precious government resources to push for another divisive independence referendum which is completely the wrong priority at the worst possible time. They should be squarely focused on tackling the cost-of-living crisis and not pushing for a referendum that most Scots don’t want.

My hope is that, at a Local Government level, we can, as we face this crisis together, set aside political point scoring and work together to make representations to the Scottish and UK Governments, that more funding is required for Local Governments to better support our struggling populations and not have to reduce local service provision.

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