West Dunbartonshire’s MP Martin Docherty-Hughes has responded to the UK Chancellor’s Spring Budget statement, warning that it fails to deliver the level of support needed to help hard-pressed families and businesses recover from the coronavirus crisis.

The Westminster government has been criticised by the SNP and anti-poverty groups over concerns that planned cuts to household incomes will worsen inequality in areas hit hard by the pandemic.

Analysis published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spending plans fail to meet five key tests on tackling poverty and could pull 500,000 people, including 200,000 children, into poverty by winter by cutting Universal Credit in October – just as unemployment is expected to rise to peak levels.

The Resolution Foundation, which also campaigns against poverty, raised concerns that the UK government’s Budget plans risk falling living standards and a squeeze on public services.

Local SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes said he could not support a Westminster Budget which marks a return to Tory austerity.

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:

“This Westminster Budget was a chance to lay the groundwork for a strong and fair recovery from the pandemic, but the Chancellor’s statement falls well short of what’s needed.

“Too many families in West Dunbartonshire and across the UK – who were already struggling after a decade of Tory austerity – are now facing real hardship due to this Tory government’s inadequate response to the covid crisis.

“Although the extension of the furlough scheme is welcome news for some, it only offers a temporary reprieve for those whose jobs are on the line and still excludes far too many people from support. The Chancellor should have acted much earlier to give assurances that the job support schemes would be in place for as long as necessary, rather than continually pushing employers to a cliff-edge and unnecessarily costing jobs in the process.

“It’s striking that whilst the Chancellor saw fit to raise the limit for a single contactless card payment to £100, for many people struggling on Universal Credit that’s more than the Tories expect them to get by on for a whole week.

“By failing to make the £20 weekly uplift to Universal Credit permanent – and refusing to extend it to those on legacy benefits – Chancellor Sunak will push thousands of my constituents further into hardship.

“I cannot support a Tory Budget which worsens inequalities, threatens Scotland’s public services, and fails to deliver the significant economic stimulus and investment needed to help struggling businesses through this crisis.”