Falkirk parties clash over payments

DWP forms
DWP forms

A war of words has broken out between politicians over payments to the disabled and vulnerable.

The SNP claims that Falkirk Council is not using cash 
earmarked for these groups and instead is using funds to hire extra staff.

But the Labour administration hit back and said the 
Nationalist opposition was 
being “naughty” with how it was interpreting figures.

The row centres on applications for hardship payments to help people who have lost out to the so-called 
Bedroom Tax.

SNP councillors said that individuals are losing again because council officials are including the care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) while calculating
Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). They added that this resulted in the disabled being less likely to qualify for the payment.

They are also unhappy that just over one third of the 
cash earmarked has been spent half-way through the year.

Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn, SNP group leader, said: “Labour may talk a good game but when called on to act they fail the people at every level.

“The administration is not only discriminating against disabled people but also guilty of diverting resources that were earmarked for vulnerable tenants to their own internal staff budgets.

“They have admitted that as of October 23 only £173,000 of the £449,000 budget has been committed.”

Hitting back, Councillor Craig Martin, council leader, said: “The allegations are the usual, not all the facts and cherrypicking.

“DHP is being applied consistent with council agreed policy and consistent with Department of Work and Pension rules. It is also 
consistent with most councils in Scotland.

“Whilst DLA income is taken into account so is the relevant expenditure and this approach is more advantageous for many applicants.”

The council leader said they anticipated they would have received 1500 applications by the end of March – a 13-fold increase, leading to the need for additional staff to meet the demand.

However, he gave an assurance. “This will not reduce the maximum grant available to be awarded to those in need,” he said.

He added: “here is a limit to how much we can spend.”