South Lanarkshire Council are set to spend almost £6 million covering the cost of “bad debts” related to Universal Credit next year.
The figure – equivalent to building 55 new council houses – was revealed during a meeting of the council’s housing and technical resources committee earlier this month, as councillors pre-approved the housing budget for 2020/21.
Next year, officers in South Lanarkshire have made provision for £5.86 million to be used to cover the cost of debts they don’t expect to fully recover - £1.456 million more than in 2019/20.
A report to the committee by Daniel Lowe, executive director for housing and technical resources, and Paul Manning, executive director for finance and corporate resources, outlined the stark reality facing some people on the controversial benefit.
It said: “In order to continue to provide for the potential impact on rent collection and arrears as a result of welfare reform, the 2020/2021 budget proposal includes a provision of £5.860 million in relation to bad debts.
“This represents an additional £1.456 million when compared to the adjusted 2019/2020 budget.
“Trends in relation to Universal Credit and its impact upon rent collection will continue to be monitored closely and reported to committee on an ongoing basis.”
Hamilton West and Earnock councillor Mary Donnelly wasn’t pleased that the money was being used in that way when she believed it could be better spent elsewhere.
She said: “It is disappointing that we are having to spend £5.86 million on Universal Credit.
“If not, we could build an extra 55 council houses.”