Labour Attendance Allowance cut has robbed Scots of over £1/4 billion

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  By G.A.Ponsonby
 
Over one quarter of a billion pounds has been cut from Scotland’s budget over the last ten years due to the last Labour government’s decision to refuse to pay Attendance Allowance for elderly Scots.
 
A letter from Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Alex Neil has revealed that the UK Labour government’s decision in 2002 to abolish Attendance Allowance resources from Scotland’s budget has cost Scotland around £270m.

In the letter, Mr Neill writes: “The removal of Attendance Allowance to self-funders in care homes in Scotland, was estimated to have saved the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) £23 million in 2002.

“An independent review of Free Personal Care was carried out in April 2008 for Lord Sutherland and it was estimated that the saving to DWP had risen to over £30 million per year.  The figure of £270 million seems a reasonable estimate covering the period from 2002 to 2011.”

Roughly £30m a year was withdrawn from Scotland in 2002 after Whitehall Officials deemed they did not have to pay the money due to the introduction of free personal care for the elderly – which officials claimed meant old people’s needs were being met elsewhere.  Former Labour First Minister Jack McConnell declined to challenge the controversial decision.

In 2002 quizzed by SNP MP Annabelle Ewing on what what plans the then Secretary of State for Scotland – Labour MP Helen Liddell – had to challenge the decision to withdraw attendance allowance, the then Labour MP George Foulkes replied:

“The Government have made it clear that they are not prepared to transfer resources in this area to the Scottish Executive. The Deputy Minister for Health and Community Care, Mr Malcolm Chisholm, said on 15 January that the discussions were concluded and the matter would not be taken any further.”

In 2008 Lord Sutherland, carried out a review in which he concluded: “The UK Government, we think, should not have withdrawn attendance allowance funding when the policy was initially introduced.”

The calls for the funding to be reinstated were echoed by another former Labour First Minister. 

Speaking after publication of the report, Henry McLeish said:

“Well, I think in the new politics in Scotland, I think every political party in Scotland should be supporting this.  I think every political party should be saying to Westminster look, this is not an issue of petty politics, of petty discussions about a small amount of finance.

“This is about a big policy in Scotland that requires Westminster to take – in my judgement – a much more mature view.  If that is the case, then I hope we can have some dialogue and we can see some resource return to Scotland which – in my view – was not properly taken away, and there should’ve been more discussion at the time.”

Commenting on claims the decision by Labour has cost the Scottish purse £270 million, SNP MSP Christine Grahame said:

“This cut – imposed by a Labour Government in Westminster – has short changed Scotland to the tune of £270m over the past decade.

“The figure rises each year, and reveals just how out of touch the Westminster system – under Labour, Tory and Lib Dem – is from the needs of the people of Scotland.

“In 2008 Lord Sutherland and Former First Minister, Henry McLeish, reiterated the call for Westminster not to cut Scotland’s Attendance Allowance money after the implementation of free personal care.  But the resource was cut, and Scotland’s budget is still facing the consequences – that is why it would be better if Scotland had access to all of our resources with independence.”

Ms Grahame called on the Scottish Labour party to ditch their so-called ‘Cuts Commission’ which is looking into the affordability of Universal Benefits such as free personal care.

She added: “The more people look at them, the more alike the anti-independence parties appear to be – and this misjudgement by Labour’s Westminster leadership over 10 years ago reminds everyone that the only a Yes vote in 2014 can protect Scotland’s resources and the values which people hold dear.”