The finance secretaries of the UK’s devolved governments have joined together in calling on the Treasury to guarantee them money allocated to fight the pandemic.
Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, her Welsh counterpart Rebecca Evans and the Incumbent Minister for Northern Ireland Conor Murphy attended a meeting with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury calling for a guarantee the funding will be provided in full.
They also urged action to tackle the cost of living crisis and help households with rising bills.
Last month, as a result of spending in England, the Treasury announced it would provide additional funding to tackle Covid-19, with the Scottish Government allocated £440m, the Welsh Government £270m and the Northern Ireland Executive £150m.
The devolved governments are concerned they may not be granted permission to carry over money into next year’s budgets, with any late consequential payments – despite flexibility being provided for this year.
The finance ministers also reiterated a request for the Treasury to provide support to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland if the public health situation in each nation demands it, not just when the assistance is applied in England.
In October, the UK Government withdrew the £20-a-week uplift to Universal Credit; a cut that was opposed by all three devolved nations.
Last month it was confirmed that inflation had risen to 5.1% – the highest rate in a decade – with increasingly expensive food, transport and clothing contributing to higher household bills.
Forbes said: “The Scottish Government remains concerned that the additional funding we have received to mitigate the impact of the Omicron variant may be subject to future deductions.
“Without the ability to borrow, this continuing uncertainty could have a substantial damaging impact on our Covid response and our ability to support public services in Scotland.
“More fundamentally, the situation highlights once again that it is not tenable for funding only to be triggered by public health decisions in England.
“People are facing a cost of living crisis and the UK Government, which reduced the lifeline Universal Credit uplift in October despite our representations, must now urgently intervene.”
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