A COUNCIL has revealed how much it spends mitigating Westminster welfare cuts – as it speaks out about "struggling" households.

Estimates suggest reforms imposed by the UK Government will hurt the finances of almost 50,000 households in Fife.

The changes are expected to strip £153 million from the region's economy, the local authority says.

Today councillor Tim Brett, convenor of the council's scrutiny committee, said the SNP-Labour administration is "spending considerable time and money" to ease the impact on "struggling" families and individuals.

However, he warned there is not enough in council coffers to undo all damage and Universal Credit – the new replacement benefit defended by the Department for Work and Pensions – could exacerbate hardship.

The National:

Brett spoke out as it emerged that the council spends £121m a year on housing benefit and council tax reduction.

Discretionary housing payments (DHP) account for another £4.5m following a 23% rise in claims, with £2.3m through the Scottish Welfare Fund.

The figures follow a committee review on the work taking place to aid cash-strapped households.

That process was ordered to "ensure that help is reaching people most in need, and that it's being delivered as efficiently as possible," the council said.

Brett stated: "We’re all aware of the enormous impact that welfare reform measures are having on Fife households, and by extension our local economy.

“The council is now spending considerable time and money, across a number of departments, to mitigate the negative impacts of national policy decisions and implementation issues.”

READ MORE: SNP demand Tories scrap two-child cap Universal Credit scheme

He went on: "The council is continuing to put extra resources in place to manage the increased claims for DHP and crisis grants.

“As Universal Credit rolls out across Fife, we’re seeing more and more tenants accumulating rent arrears. We know that the structure of the benefits system is causing this and the council’s planning to introduce a rent allowance scheme to help people through this. However, this is balanced with our duty to protect the public purse and the Think Rent campaign and individual officer support encourages council tenants to prioritise rent payments.

“Not only are Fife’s households struggling with the impact of welfare reform, it’s having a costly impact on the council and our partner organisations.

"It’s clear that we don’t have enough resource to mitigate the full impact of the welfare changes, but the Scrutiny Committee is reassured that there is a coordinated plan of action in Fife which is responding quickly and proportionately to the challenges facing our residents.”

The DWP says Universal Credit is helping people into work.