A CROSS-PARTY group will look at how East Renfrewshire Council can help residents struggling with the cost of living after councillors promised not to “stand by and ignore hardships”.

SNP councillors wanted the authority to call on the UK Government to scrap energy price cap rises, bring in a further windfall tax, extended to include all large businesses which made “significant profits” during the pandemic, and roll out an energy price cap for small and medium size firms.

In a motion, Cllr Tony Buchanan, the SNP group leader, said the “Conservative cost of living crisis is spiralling out of control due to continuing damaging decisions imposed by Westminster”, including austerity cuts, tax hikes and Brexit.

He wanted the council to declare a cost of living emergency and launch a “cross-party internal review into what the council can offer East Renfrewshire families struggling with the cost-of-living emergency”.

But a Labour amendment, backed by the Conservatives, was passed which noted “only the UK and Scottish Governments have the financial firepower and fiscal tools to significantly alleviate these burdens for the residents of East Renfrewshire”.

It added: “However, this council will not stand by and ignore the hardships faced by its residents, to that end council calls for the creation of a cross-party group to review the plans that are currently being developed to help East Renfrewshire families struggling with covid recovery and the cost of living crisis.”

There will be input from the voluntary sector, including Citizens Advice, food banks, trade unions and chambers of commerce. The first meeting has been scheduled for September 27.

Plans will go before the council’s cabinet on October 13.

Cllr Buchanan said he had “some sympathy” with the Labour amendment but added that “the difficulty I have is that it doesn’t recognise the Scottish Government has utilised all its fiscal powers that they have”.

“We do not have the powers in Scotland to go and borrow,” he added. “That in itself is one of the most horrendous aspects of the difficulties we currently face.”

Council leader Owen O’Donnell (Labour) said: “In my first speech to this chamber on May 25, I said both Scottish and UK Governments are struggling to solve the cost of living crisis.  “That remains the case but to be clear we will welcome any support through emergency budgets from either government as long as it is significant and will improve people’s lives.”

He added his group’s  has been working with officials to develop plans, including allocating £1.5m of Scottish Government covid recovery funding.

Cllr O’Donnell said: “The second phase is much more complex and will involve consultation with a wide variety of stakeholders across the voluntary sector and beyond to make sure we deliver plans that are effective with the limited resources we have available to us.”

Cllr Gordon Wallace, Conservative, initially put forward an amendment to recognise the “unprecedented support for both business and families provided by the Westminster government during lockdown”. It also welcomed “anticipated measures” to mitigate the cost of living crisis from the new Prime Minister.

However, he decided to pull the motion and the Conservatives backed the Labour amendment instead.

Cllr Wallace said the SNP motion “belongs in a sixth form debating society” and added: “This is the politics of division, this is a time when we should actually be getting together and actually finding the solutions.”