AROUND £200,000 is being lost out of the economy in East Ayrshire when more than 10,000 claimants suffer benefit cuts next week, a union has said.

Members of the Unite Community West of Scotland branch highlighted their concerns at the scheduled removal of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit when they sponsored Muirkirk FC on Saturday.

The UK Government introduced the extra cash to support those on benefits and mitigate financial hardship by those on the poverty line during the pandemic.

But the decision to remove the uplift – when furlough is also due to end – has been met with harsh criticism.

Keith Stoddart, chair of the West of Scotland Unite Community, said: “There is clearly such widespread anger at this decision. We opted for the lifebelt being washed away as we felt this symbolises what this means to people.

“The uplift is just that – a lifebelt which has allowed people to put food on the table or given the time of year to get new uniforms for kids returning to school – and to have this removed will see many people going under. In many ways, it’s fitting that Unite Community should choose Muirkirk FC as a flagship of support in their community.

“Here in East Ayrshire we have 10,265 people on Universal Credit and that means around £200,000 coming out of the local economy on a weekly basis.

“Universal Credit has not done what they claimed it would do and, by implementing this cut, it gives lie to the government’s claim to be ‘levelling up’. For one of the richest countries in the world to be taking £20 a week from its poorest citizens defies description.”

Naomi Mackay, a member of Unite Community and a recipient of Universal Credit, said: “I didn’t choose this, no one does, but I can’t sleep and I am constantly worried about what tomorrow will bring.”

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, in March 2020 the Government announced an uplift to universal credit and working tax credits worth £20 a week. Initially planned to last for a year, the policy was extended by six months in the March 2021 budget. In July 2021, the Tory-run UK Government confirmed that it would not be extended further.