Nobody attends council meetings. Well with the obvious exception of councillors and council staff. 

Whether it is the ‘full council’ meeting that all 22 of your elected councillors attend, or the committees that scrutinise your council services, members of the public simply do not attend. 

On occasion, the odd planning board meeting or a licensing board meeting will attract the interest of people with vested interests, but by and large for whatever the reasons are, members of the public do not attend the majority of these public meetings. 

Perhaps live streaming — that is making the meetings available on online — would result in more people being able to find out what is happening in your council from the horse’s mouth. That is an area we are currently pursuing. 

However, at present, many people across Inverclyde learn of the decisions and the discussions that are going on in the council thanks to the coverage in this newspaper. 

This week at the council’s policy and resources committee (the committee that sets overall policy and oversees your money being spent) we learned more about the impacts of Universal Credit on people in Inverclyde. 

The latest figures show us that 3,761 people here in Inverclyde receive Universal Credit. Furthermore 1,341 housing association tenants pay their rent via Universal Credit. 

Around a third of people in Inverclyde that receive Universal Credit are in work. Zero hours contracts, a lack of enough hours and low pay mean that it is actually workers that make up a high proportion of food bank users and 60 per cent of children living in poverty do so despite having a working parent. I think it is important to remind ourselves that a quarter of the children of Inverclyde live in poverty. 

Universal Credit’s minimum six-week wait for the first payment has led to many people in Inverclyde falling immediately into debt or rent arrears. 

For others, the six weeks have stretched to eight to 10 weeks with no income and, in desperation, has forced people to borrow from family or payday loans. 

The reality is that Universal Credit is pushing hundreds, if not thousands, of people across Inverclyde into poverty, debt and hardship with hundreds of families having to rely on food banks and emergency support just to get by. 

Since April alone, our council has issued more than 700 crisis grants, nearly £1million has been paid in housing support payments to assist people who are in financial need because of the roll out of Universal Credit and in fact, Inverclyde is spending more money than anywhere else in Scotland to mitigate the disaster that is unfolding before us.  

It seems to me that since I was first elected over five years ago, more and more it seems that the number one task we have as a council in Inverclyde is mitigating the worst of the UK Governments, austerity agenda and welfare reforms. 
Money that could be getting spent on our schools, social care, roads and other areas is instead needed to mitigate policies such as Universal Credit. 

What we need in Inverclyde is to see the pause of Universal Credit — and we need to see that now before anyone else in our community has to suffer the destitution and the anxieties that too many have already suffered.

If you have been effected by Universal Credit and you need support, please get in touch so that we can offer any assistance that we can.