A new report by the Comptroller and Auditor General underlines the importance of the welfare mitigations secured by Sinn Féin in protecting the most vulnerable from Tory cuts, Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has said.
The Foyle MLA was commenting after the Auditor General concluded that claimants here have been ‘insulated from the full impact of welfare reforms’ by the £585 million package secured as part of the 2015 Fresh Start Agreement.
“The auditor’s report is a clear vindication of the crucial protections that are available here and nowhere else,” Karen Mullan said.
“He paints a stark picture of what the alternative would have been, warning that without these protections we would be facing the same kind of increased hardship and foodbank use that is happening in Britain.
“No-one should be in any doubt about that, because the British Government was adamant that unmitigated welfare cuts would be imposed over the heads of the local Executive and Assembly. There would have been no top-up payments to those losing out, no flexibilities and full-blown sanctions.
“Instead, as evidenced by the report, the mitigations have reduced the impact of welfare cuts in a number of key areas.
Karen Mullan also strongly criticised the British Treasury for continuing to oppose elements of the mitigation protections.
“No one should be in any doubt about the opposition that we faced from the British Treasury regarding the mitigation package,” he said.
“Unfortunately that opposition continues to this day. For example, the British Treasury are insisting that mitigation top-ups under the Cost of Work Allowance should be taxable. This would mean the British Treasury taking money off people on low incomes who are entitled to mitigation top-up payments.
“That is unacceptable and the stand-off over that element has led to a substantial part of the underspend identified in the Auditor General’s report.
“Going forward, the Sinn Féin position is unambiguous. We will continue to oppose the welfare cuts agenda in its entirety. It is clearly not fit for purpose and should be scrapped completely.
“Protecting the most vulnerable will remain our key objective, whether that is by mitigating it where possible or by unpicking the entire disastrous Tory welfare agenda.”