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by Kirsteen Paterson
04 March 2024
Scottish Social Justice Secretary in appeal to Chancellor over Budget plans

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt | Alamy

Scottish Social Justice Secretary in appeal to Chancellor over Budget plans

Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has urged Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to scrap controversial welfare rules in this week's Budget.

Hunt will deliver the statement on Wednesday and has hinted at tax cuts.

In a letter to Hunt, Somerville – whose Scottish Government raised income tax rates for higher earners in its December spending plan – called for action to tackle child poverty.

She said the UK Government should bring in an essentials guarantee to ensure benefits meet the cost of basic needs.

The MSP also called for an end to a raft of controversial policies including the two-child limit, the benefits cap and the bedroom tax, as well as action to speed up initial Universal Credit payments.

She said: "These policies restrict the amount of support available to some of our most vulnerable people, disproportionately affecting women and children, and build unnecessary hardship into the social security system."

On the impact of the Scottish Government's approach to welfare, she told Hunt an estimated 100,000 fewer children will live in relative poverty this year as a result.

Somerville said: "Despite the considerable action we are taking, many of the powers needed to eradicate poverty remain reserved to the UK Government. The spring Budget is an opportunity for you to take the action needed to transform the lives and outcomes of people across the UK."

In an interview with the BBC, Hunt said the Budget will focus on "long-term growth", saying: "When we look around the world, the economies that are growing fastest, whether it's North America or Asia, tend to be the ones with lower taxes."

He went on: "I do want, where it's possible to do so responsibly, to move towards a lower-tax economy and I hope to show a path in that direction."

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