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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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Tory Boundary Changes Will Harm Democracy - MP

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has submitted her response to the Boundary Commission for Scotland’s Sixth Review of UK Parliament Constituencies.

Proposals from the Tory/Lib Dem London Government will see the number of Scottish MPs reduced from the present 59 to 52 and constituencies made much larger as a result.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“I have concerns regarding the size of the constituencies being proposed for Scotland, both in terms of numbers of electors and geographical area. The reduction in the number of elected MPs takes place in a context where they are already outnumbered by unelected members of the House of Lords. I fear fewer MPs serving unwieldy constituencies will only serve to make elected representatives more remote from their constituents.”

Regarding the new boundaries proposed for Banff & Buchan, which sees Ellon and surrounding areas move into the constituency, Dr Whiteford continued:

“Insofar as there will be changes, then reuniting the communities of Buchan into the same constituency makes sense.

“The communities of Buchan, from Fraserburgh to Ellon and from Turriff to Peterhead, were part of the same constituency for nearly a hundred years, so it is logical to use what worked well in the past as a blueprint for trying to make these changes work.”


Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson added:

“Community ties and historic connections are important in defining constituencies.

“I argued successfully when the Scottish Parliament constituencies were being reviewed that it would be quite wrong to name a new constituency stretching westward to Buckie “Buchan Coast”. The eventual name, Banffshire & Buchan Coast, is far more reflective of the communities which make up the constituency.

“Similarly, for the Westminster constituency, the opportunity has arisen to reunite historic Buchan and I am pleased that the Boundary Commission have recognised that with their initial proposals.”

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Whiteford Appeal Over Farepak 'Nightmare Of Christmas Past'

Saturday, 24 December 2011

AFTER FIVE YEARS IT IS TIME FOR A FAIR DEAL FOR FAREPAK FAMILIES

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson and local MP Eilidh Whiteford has issued a Christmas appeal to the UK Government calling for compensation for Farepak families, who are still waiting for reparation five years after the collapse of the Christmas saving scheme.

Comparing the UK Government’s response to bailing out the banks with Farepak, Dr Whiteford has written to Business Secretary Vince Cable, asking why 20,000 Scottish customers who lost their Christmas savings in 2006 – including many in Banff & Buchan - are still out of pocket.

Commenting, Eilidh said:

“The UK Government bent-over-backwards to bail out the banks, and is rightly compensating customers of Equitable Life but hasn’t found a single penny for the Farepak families.

“It is five years since Farepak collapsed, but that nightmare of Christmas past is still being felt by many low income families. Savers are likely to recover just 5p in the pound, while the final bill for the administrators and their legal advisers has already exceeded £8 million.

“It is simply disgraceful that, years after the company collapsed, that customers are still waiting for their money back.

“The UK Government needs to bring forward compensation for these families, particularly given that it was its failure to secure adequate consumer protection through regulation that allowed the Farepak Christmas crisis to happen.

“UK Ministers should step in without further delay to secure compensation for those who lost out so badly.”

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Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP Delivers Christmas Encouragement To Royal Mail Posties At Peterhead Delivery Office

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has visited Royal Mail’s Peterhead Delivery Office to pass on best Christmas wishes and encouragement to the postmen and women at their busiest time of year.

Eilidh was shown round the Delivery Office by local Delivery Office Manager Garry Saunders and was introduced to all the postmen and women who are working hard doing their bit to sort and deliver the area’s share of the estimated total Scottish Christmas postbag of over 180 million items.

Commenting, Eilidh said:

Kevin Thom; Eilidh Whiteford MP;
James Whyte; Garry Saunders (l to r)
“It was great to meet the hard-working Royal Mail postmen and women at Peterhead Delivery Office and to see at first hand just how much effort they put into delivering the Christmas post for people at this time of year.

“Posties do such an important job at this time of year and I like to thank them for their efforts and wish them all the best over the busy festive period.”

Garry Saunders, Royal Mail Delivery Office Manager at Peterhead said:

“Christmas is the busiest time of year, and our people really do pull out all the stops to deliver the Christmas mailbag. We are pleased that Eilidh came along to witness the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.”

He added:

“The postal staff do a fantastic job at this time of year to ensure that friends and families stay in touch through their Christmas greetings and gifts. And as usual, we urge our customers to post early so that friends and family have longer to enjoy their Christmas greetings!”

It is also vital that people remember the last posting dates for mail. These are:
  • Tuesday 20 December for 1st Class items
  • Saturday 17 December for 2nd Class items
  • Thursday 22 December for Special Delivery items
  • Monday 12 December for airmail items to Western Europe
  • Friday 9 December for Eastern Europe, the USA, Canada and Japan
  • Monday 5 December for mail to the rest of the world
To help Royal Mail at its busiest time of the year, customers are being encouraged to take a few simple steps:
  • Post early – to help Royal Mail spread the workload, post early and order presents early. The last posting dates this Christmas are: December 17 for 2nd Class mail; December 20 for 1st Class mail; December 22 for Special Delivery
  • Use a postcode – A clearly addressed card or parcel, with a postcode, helps Royal Mail sort the item more efficiently
  • Use Special Delivery – For valuable packages and parcels guarantee delivery, Royal Mail’s Special Delivery service is recommended, This means your gift is tracked, traced and insured against loss
  • Parcelforce Worldwide’s Express services – These offer fast international delivery across the world from next working day, and the Scheduled service takes from three working days. Available to 240 countries worldwide, both are ideal for sending valuable and treasured items across the globe. For more information visit www.parcelforce.com
  • For more information about Christmas with Royal Mail visit: http://www.royalmail.com/ or call 08457 740 740.

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Fisheries Talks Underline Need For Scottish Voice In Europe

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

SNP Fisheries Spokeswoman, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said the outcome of the EU fisheries talks underlined the damage done to Scotland’s relationship with the European Union by the behaviour of the UK Government.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“Scotland’s Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead worked through the night to ease the pressure on the Scottish fishing fleet but it is clear more could have been achieved if Scotland had started from a stronger position at the talks.

“There can be no doubt that the irresponsible political posturing of the UK Government made securing the concessions we needed at these fisheries talks more difficult.

“An independent Scotland would be able to take our own seat at the top table and negotiate the best deal for Scotland.”

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MP Helps Deliver Christmas Cheer To Sheltered Housing Residents

Monday, 19 December 2011

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford joined members of the Rosehearty Bonfire Committee in delivering Christmas food hampers to elderly residents of Malcolm Forbes Court, Pitsligo Street, Rosehearty yesterday (Sunday).

Each year, the Rosehearty Bonfire Committee raise money at their fireworks display which is used to buy the hampers, which are delivered to elderly residents at Christmas.

Commenting afterwards, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“It was a pleasure to help the Rosehearty Bonfire Committee with their annual hamper delivery to the older residents in the village and the Committee are to be commended for such a worthwhile initiative.

“The hampers I helped to deliver were very well-received by the residents at Malcolm Forbes Court, as I am sure they were throughout the village.”

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Whiteford Highlights Farmers' Frustrations In Commons Debate

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

EGG IMPORTS UNDER FIRE

As the implementation date for a new European Council Directive edges ever closer, SNP Member of Parliament for Banff & Buchan, Dr Eilidh Whiteford, has spoken out in the House of Commons on the inadequate legal framework to enforce the new Directive and protect Scottish farmers.

The Directive, which sets down minimum standards for improving the welfare of laying hens and prohibits the use of conventional ‘battery’ cages, is due to come into force on 1st January 2012.

Egg producers in Banff and Buchan have invested heavily in upgrading their facilities in line with the requirements of the Directive. However, it is clear that not all eggs produced in the EU will be compliant by the implementation date. This has led to concerns that ‘illegal’ eggs and egg products could find their way into the UK market, and undermine UK and Scottish farmers.

The SNP’s Dr Whiteford commented after speaking in a Westminster debate, attended by the UK Government Minister for Agriculture and Food:

“What has emerged from the debate today is that no powers exist for the EU or any member state to introduce a ban preventing non-complaint eggs from being traded.”

“It is incredible that we are powerless to stop illegally produced eggs from entering our country, when the producers of those eggs have had 12 years to bring their production up to standard.”

“I welcome the representations that have been made to the European Commission on this issue, and the steps taken by the UK and Scottish Governments to mitigate the worst effects of this Directive, but I share the frustration of farmers in my own constituency, and across Scotland, who will have their investment and their competitiveness undermined.”

“There has been a complete lack of foresight from the European Commission in failing to put enforcement measures in place for egg producers that did not comply with this Directive. The Commission and member states with compliant industries are now practically impotent to prevent the import of illegally produced eggs.

“Valuable lessons must be learned from this experience to ensure that we do not implement new European rules to see other EU members flout them with impunity."


Dr Whiteford had previously won assurances from the Chief Executives of Tesco, Morrisons and ASDA that none of their eggs or own-brand egg products would be sourced from non-compliant eggs.

European Council Directive 1999/74/EC will come into effect from 1 January 2012. The Directive sets down minimum standards for improving the welfare of laying hens and prohibits the use of conventional (‘battery’) cages.

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MP Visits Fraserburgh Birthing Unit

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Commenting following her visit to the Birthing Unit at Fraserburgh Hospital on Friday, Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford said:

“This was a very useful visit and it was helpful to meet staff and see at first hand the facilities that are currently available.

“The consultation document highlights the shortcomings in existing provision and the limitations of the birthing unit. However, as we saw with the severe weather last week, Fraserburgh is some distance from acute NHS services and NHS managers have to take account of the practical realities of our geography and climate when they plan services.

“It is really important that women who have used or who plan to use maternity services in the Fraserburgh area make their views known. It is only possible to build services around women’s needs if women speak out about the kind of provision they want to see.”

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Whiteford Given Assurance On Mintlaw Post Office

Thursday, 8 December 2011

ROYAL MAIL BOSSES SAY NORMAL HOURS TO RESUME FROM WEDNESDAY

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has received an assurance from Royal Mail bosses that Mintlaw Post Office will resume normal opening hours with effect from next Wednesday.

The MP contacted Royal Mail last month after the Post Office branch was closed pending an investigation into alleged irregularities. The move left the largest village in Buchan without a Post Office service for several days and Royal Mail bosses arranged for temporary opening hours to be put in place on three days per week.

Following feedback from the community that this was inadequate to meet the needs of the Mintlaw area, Dr Whiteford continued to push for a resumption of normal service.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“I made further representations to Royal Mail and I am pleased to confirm that normal opening hours will resume at Mintlaw Post Office from next Wednesday, 14 December.

“This is an extremely busy time of year for Post Offices, and I hope the return to normal opening hours will help alleviate the community's concerns about the reduced service.”

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Labour Let Tories Off The Hook On Pension Reforms

Labour have been condemned for letting the Tories off the hook over punitive public sector pension reforms after the party failed to back an SNP and Plaid Cymru motion which called for the UK Government to reverse unfair changes to public sector pensions.

The debate – the first since the UK Government announced its pension reforms - comes after more than two million public sector workers took part in a day of action last week. The SNP and Plaid Cymru debate had been welcomed by a number of unions.

Speaking after the vote, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“Instead of uniting against these punitive reforms, it is incredible that Labour have chosen to let the Tories off the hook and let public sector workers down by sitting on their hands.

“The millions of workers who marched through the streets last week will be aghast that Labour MPs have refused to even walk through the lobbies for them.

“This was the first debate and vote since the UK Government announced its plans, and it should have been a moment when MPs from all parties united against these coalitions cuts.

“Labour are clearly not interested in the welfare of public sector workers. Despite having had thirty six debates to raise this issue, since the UK Government announced their plans, Labour has remained silent.

“It is also clear that these punitive reforms are all about the UK Government's deficit reduction plans, and have nothing to do with securing sustainable pensions. The aggressive and arrogant threat to reduce the Scottish Budget if their reforms are not implemented proves that the Scottish Government has no option outside applying these increases and that the UK Government continues to have the power to meddle and influence issues which are central to the future of Scotland and which should be for the Scottish Government to decide.

“The need for affordable, sustainable and fair public sector pensions is of critical importance to everyone, which is why the short term cash grab by the UK Government is so concerning. Long-term pension reforms must be taken forward with consent and in partnership which is why it was so regrettable that UK Ministers appeared to relish strike action.

“The SNP will continue to will ensure that the voice of ordinary public sector workers is heard in parliament."


Plaid Cymru Work and Pensions spokesperson, Hywel Williams MP, said:

“Last week’s Day of Action saw more than two million people express their concerns about the UK Government’s changes to public sector pensions and I am pleased that Plaid Cymru and the SNP brought those concerns to the House of Commons.

“These proposals mean public sector workers, who make up three in ten of the Welsh workforce, will work longer, pay more and receive less in their pensions.

“Sadly, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, who are making these changes, have been let off the hook by the failure of the Labour Party to stand up for public sector workers.

“That was only what we could expect from a party which did not support the Day of Action and have conspicuously failed to show active support for those who will be affected by these changes.

“We offered Labour MPs the opportunity to show their support for public sector workers – and they did not do so. I shall leave it to those workers to decide what that means.

“Plaid Cymru will continue to fight for fair pensions for everybody, including a living state pension and protecting workers.”

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MP Meets Mintlaw Club Members Bowled Over By New Solar Panels

Local MP Eilidh Whiteford will visit Buchan Indoor Bowling Club, South Street. Mintlaw on Friday 9 December (tomorrow) at 11.30am.

Members approached the MP earlier this year for guidance on what assistance may be available to the non-profit making club to install environmentally-friendly solar panels. Dr Whiteford took the matter up with the Energy Minister who clarified the situation and the club have now installed the new solar panels.

The MP has been invited to visit by club members to thank her for her assistance and to show off their new solar panel system.

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Payday Warning Prompts Crisis Loan Rethink

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

As insolvency experts today (Wednesday) warn that millions are likely to turn to high-interest payday loans, a parliamentary question tabled by an SNP MP has revealed that the number of consumer credit licences revoked annually by the regulator has more than doubled over recent years.

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP said stronger regulation was still needed to protect consumers and crack-down on unscrupulous lenders. Dr Whiteford also called for the UK Government to reconsider proposals to cut the availability and level of crisis loans which could drive more people towards high-interest lenders and illegal loan sharks.

Commenting Dr Whiteford said:

“It is clear, both from the insolvency sector warning and the doubling of consumer credit licences being revoked, that strong action is still needed to regulate the consumer credit industry and protect vulnerable individuals.

“This warning comes at a time of general economic uncertainty for many, and at a time of year when many households are struggling to make ends meet with the pressures of Christmas approaching.

“For many these loans are a last resort and, as well as taking action tighten regulation of the industry, the UK Government must also step back from its plans to cut the availability and level of crisis loans. The only winners from this cut by the Coalition Government will be loan sharks and high interest lenders.

“In the wake of this stark warning by the insolvency sector the UK Government must step back from its cruel plan to cut crisis loans.”

  1. Reports of the warning by the insolvency sector can be found here:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16063271
  2. A parliamentary question by Dr Whiteford which reveals that there were 39 consumer credit licenses revoked by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) during 2010/11, up from 16 revoked in 2008/09, and also up from the 27 licences revoked in 2009/10, can be found here:
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm111205/text/111205w0005.htm#11120627000583

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Calls For United Front In Public Pensions Vote

SNP AND PLAID USE OPPOSITION DAY TO FORCE PENSION DEBATE

Challenging MPs ahead of a vote tomorrow (Thursday) on public sector pensions secured by the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford urged MPs, from across parties and across the UK, to show a united front against changes proposed by the UK Government.

The debate comes after more than two million public sector workers took part in a Day of Action last week over the proposals, which will mean that they work longer, pay more in pension contributions but receive a smaller pension when they do finally retire.

Despite having 36 opposition day debates since public sector pension changes were first announced in June 2010 – including a debate on the day of the strikes - Labour have so far failed to put the issue on the agenda in Parliament.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Dr Whiteford said:

“It is clear from the day of action by workers last week that there is real anger over these reforms, yet there has been no debate and no vote at Westminster. Given the strength of public feeling, we must now have that debate and MPs, from across the parties and across the UK, must show a united front against these Coalition cuts.

“Despite having had thirty six debate days since to raise this issue, since the UK Government announced their plans, Labour has been ominously silent. This vote will be an opportunity for all MPs to make their position clear.

“The need for affordable, sustainable and fair public sector pensions is of critical importance to everyone, which is why the short term cash grab by the UK Government is so concerning. Long-term pension reforms must be taken forward with consent and in partnership which is why it was so regrettable that UK Ministers appeared to be relishing the prospect of strike action.

“This will also be an opportunity to debate the UK Government’s threat to cut Scotland’s budget by £100 million next year alone, on top of drastic cuts to Scotland’s budget, if the Scottish Government does not implement the UK Government’s immediate levy on pensions contributions.

“It is crucial that MP’s at last debate this issue which is why the SNP and Plaid Cymru will ensure that the voice of ordinary public sector workers is heard in parliament.”


Plaid Cymru Work and Pensions spokesperson, Hywel Williams MP, said:

“The pension changes are simply unfair. These proposals mean that millions of hard-working public sector employees, including teachers and nurses, will pay more from their salaries each month but receive less money when they retire. Work longer, pay more, get less.

“The UK Government will not discuss pension changes made in 2007-08 which, according to figures from the National Audit Office, show savings of 14% as a result.

“Plaid Cymru have recently uncovered the fact that the UK Government have carried out no re-evaluation of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme since those changes. So how can they claim that the scheme is unaffordable?

“The increase in contributions from salaries is not going to fund future pensions, as the government claims. Rather it is going to fill the hole created by the bankers bailout and by regulatory failure.

“With public sector wages being frozen and 710,000 job losses under new Con-Dem plans, this is a full frontal attack on the public sector, the backbone of our countries.

“It is wholly unacceptable that such major changes have not been properly debated in Parliament.

“The trade unions should consider why Labour have not called for this debate, that it is Plaid Cymru and the SNP who have done so and why Labour’s front bench do a disappearing act whenever strike action is mentioned.”

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Local MP And MSP Comment On Fraserburgh Maternity Consultation

Local MP Eilidh Whiteford and MSP Stewart Stevenson have commented on the issuing by NHS Grampian of a consultation on the future provision of maternity services at Fraserburgh Hospital.

Mr Stevenson was part of the successful community-led campaign in 2006/07 which fought the withdrawal of maternity services at Fraserburgh Hospital and secured the establishment of the birthing unit.

Commenting, Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford said:

“We need to explore and investigate the issues around why this proposal has been made so soon after the birthing unit was established in 2007.

“To that end, I will be seeking to visit the birthing unit at Fraserburgh Hospital and also meet with senior management in NHS Grampian in early course.”


Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson added:

Stewart Stevenson MSP
at Broadford Hospital
which he visited during
the last campaign
“Back in 2006, when NHS Grampian last came forward with proposals to cease maternity services at Fraserburgh Hospital, the trend was for an increase in the numbers of home births

“Clearly there will be a number of factors at play here and I have no doubt that NHS Grampian would argue, just as they did in 2006, that the number of births taking place at the birthing unit create issues in terms of staff skills.

“Five years ago, we had an exemplary, well-informed campaign led by the community itself and not politicians. Campaigns led by the community are always the best. At that time, I also undertook a fact-finding visit to a birthing unit run by NHS Highland on Skye. There I found a valued local service which the staff were extremely proud of.

“We now need to engage with NHS Grampian once again and, if it is the will of the community, make the case again for maternity provision at Fraserburgh Hospital. To that end, I want to hear from the people of Fraserburgh and surrounding areas with their experiences of the birthing unit and their views on these proposals.”

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Pensions Should Be Set By Scottish Parliament Survey Shows

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Two thirds of people in Scotland believe the Scottish Parliament should be responsible for setting the state pension and back Holyrood taking responsibility for all the decisions affecting Scotland according to the latest report on the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey.

With 65% of people in Scotland calling for decisions on the state pension being taken at Holyrood the SNP’s Work and Pensions spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP said there is a clear appetite for the Scottish Parliament to take on responsibility for welfare and benefits across the country.

The support for Holyrood having control over pensions was set out in the latest report on the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, conducted between June and September this year which also showed independence is now the preferred option for Scotland’s future with 43% favouring the Scottish Parliament making all the decisions for Scotland, against only 21% in favour of the status quo and 29% for “devolution max”.

Dr Whiteford said:

“There is a growing demand amongst people in Scotland for their parliament to be responsible for the key issues that affect their lives.

“Nearly two thirds of people in Scotland want their state pension to be set by a Scottish Parliament that will understand their needs and the value of the pension to them far better than a UK government.

“Last year’s survey showed that 62% of people thought welfare benefits should be determined by Holyrood – and that has now increased again to 65%.

“There is clearly little trust left in the UK Government over pensions. From the miserly rises of the Labour years to the UK Government’s current plans to raid public sector pensions to pay off the deficit too many people have seen their pension mistreated too often.

“Figures show that Scotland, as an independent nation, would be in a better position than the UK to meet pension costs with pensions and benefits taking up a smaller amount of Scottish income, than they do across the UK.

“There is a growing confidence in the Scottish Parliament and an increasing belief that it is Scotland’s Parliament that should make the decisions that affect people’s lives.”


______
The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey interviewed 1,149 people between June and September 2011

  • Asked who should make key decisions for Scotland about pensions - 65% said the Scottish Parliament and 33% said Westminster
  • In 2010 respondents were asked Who should make key decisions for Scotland about welfare benefits – 62% said the Scottish Parliament.
Pension payments in Scotland total 15.1% of Scottish revenues, less than the 15.7% for the UK.

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SNP Welcome UK Government U-Turn On Mobility Cuts

Thursday, 1 December 2011

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP has welcomed news today (Thursday) that the UK Government has abandoned plans to remove the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance for people in residential care.

The UK Government had planned to scrap the payments to those living in residential care but today admitted that there was insufficient evidence to support their arguments that there was a funding overlap and that claimants were getting money from two sources for the same purpose.

Parliamentary questions by Dr Whiteford – who secured cross-party support for a motion calling for the government to reverse the cut - revealed that the cut would have impacted on approximately 60,000 people living in residential care, including an estimated 8,000 users of the Motability Car Scheme.

Dr Whiteford said:

“Threatening to remove the mobility component for people in residential care was one of the most callous cuts the Tories proposed, and this u-turn is a great victory for campaigners and common sense.

“We are talking about a lifeline payment which gives people, including children at residential special schools, some independence.

“Removing this allowance would effectively have meant that some people could no longer get out and about and would have been confined to their residential care home.

“The fact remains that the Tories have targeted the most vulnerable in society with their cuts, and I hope we will be able to force further u-turns by UK Ministers – for example, on the planned cuts to the availability of crisis loans.”

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