Poverty-stricken families in Dumfries and Galloway are going to be hit with a double whammy this winter, councillors have warned.

More than 8,000 families across the region are set to lose £86.67 per month when additional Universal Credit payments are cut from October 6.

However, councillors are extremely concerned that increasing gas bills and rising energy prices are going to make the situation even more difficult.

They agreed at Thursday’s full council meeting to protest against the Universal Credit cuts at Westminster level with a letter to the UK Chancellor and the region’s MPs.

Meanwhile, a letter will also be sent to the First Minister at Holyrood calling for the Scottish Child Payment of £20 per week to be doubled.

North West Dumfries Councillor Andy Ferguson tabled a motion at the meeting calling for councillors to unite in opposition to the Universal Credit cuts.

Fearing that the council’s anti-poverty budget won’t be able to cope with the fallout of the controversial Tory move, Mr Ferguson said: “Our staff are preparing for the worst possible scenarios and I’m afraid there is very little light at the end of the tunnel.

“I am not going to project what the pressures are likely to be and, as I have already said, it is clear this money grab is unnecessary, ill-conceived and will impact on our most vulnerable citizens.”

Provost Tracey Little backed his call for the authority to write to the Chancellor and MPs pointing out the Universal Credit cut would “devastate” struggling families in the area.

She added: “The staggering, yawning chasm between the rich and poor in the UK is ever-widening.

“I sometimes wonder how far the current UK government can go before we decide enough is enough.

Council Leader Elaine Murray

“The £20 uplift to Universal Credit has been a lifeline for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people during the pandemic – and now they are going to take it away.

“If you think I’m getting upset over a paltry sum of money, then you’d be quite right.

“That’s because Universal Credit, by its very design, is not generous. That extra £20, small as it is, means a great deal to a great many people.”

Annandale North Councillor Adam Wilson also strongly opposed the Universal Credit cuts but tabled an amendment insisting that the council should go one step further by demanding an increase to the Scottish Child Payment allowance.

He said: “I think it’s essential that both governments take decisions now to support households across Dumfries and Galloway.

“Reversing cuts to Universal Credit now could do that – but so too will doubling the Scottish Child Payment by £20 per week, as has been called for by over 100 organisations and individuals in Scotland.”

His amendment was passed with a 22-10 vote.

The council will write to the Chancellor and local MPs strongly objecting to the Universal Credit cuts.

In addition, the council leader, Elaine Murray, will write to the First Minister and local MSPs demanding that the £20 weekly child payment benefit is doubled immediately.

After the meeting Dr Murray said: “There is no doubt that many families in Dumfries and Galloway will be hit hard by rising fuel, energy and food prices and those in work will from next year have their pay reduced as National Insurance contributions increase.

“Both governments have a role to play – as does the local council – in ameliorating the effects on hard-up local families.”