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The Department’s resource budget will increase by 1.9% ahead of inflation for the first time since 2011, enabling us to provide excellent customer service, help people move into and progress in work, and provide financial security through timely benefit payments. As part of this, the DWP has been allocated £106 million to support vulnerable people and help to tackle private rented sector housing affordability through additional funding for discretionary housing payments.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has highlighted that, with more social housing and lower housing costs, Scotland’s poverty figures are lower than the rest of the UK. The reality is that the biggest poverty factor is still Tory austerity. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that recent announcements will only mitigate a quarter of the cuts implemented since 2010. It is clear from the Secretary of State’s answer that a 1.9% increase is not enough. If austerity is really ending, when will the other three quarters of the cuts that have been implemented be reversed?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Government have lifted 400,000 people out of absolute poverty since 2010 and that income inequality has fallen. I encourage the hon. Gentleman to go back to the Scottish Government and see what more they are doing to increase the number of higher paid jobs, because we all know that the best way out of poverty is to work.
On this subject yet again, the spending round did nothing to address the cuts to the local housing allowance and the pressures on private renters, who are £38.49 a week worse off due to the UK Government’s benefits freeze. To ensure affordability and prevent evictions and hardship, will the Secretary of State immediately increase the LHA to the pre-2010 level, and uprate it in line with inflation and rent increases?