Hard-up Teries have been seen raking through bins hunting for discarded takeaway food, it is claimed.
Hungry Hawick folk are said to been observed by residents of Howegate scouring bins there for leftovers of takeaways bought at the numerous fast-food outlets the street is home to.
The sightings have been brought to the attention of Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson by a concerned constituent.
Mr Paterson has speculated that, if true, the search for discarded food could be attributed to people struggling to make ends meet while waiting for universal credit payments to come through.
He said: “There are a lot of fast-food outlets in Howegate, and I have been informed by a constituent that there are people now having to take food out of the bins.
“I don’t know if this has anything to do with universal credit, but it is a sad state of affairs, whatever the reason behind it, if someone is having to do this to survive.
“I have been reading that there has been a climb-down by the Tory UK Government over universal credit, and not before time.
“We all realise that you shouldn’t be better off choosing not to work, but there are genuine people out there having to go to food banks to survive.
“I know we had it tough when we were growing up, but there wasn’t such a thing as a food bank.
“Surely in this day and age, no one should have to rake through a bin for food.”
The new universal credit benefit is currently being rolled out across the country, but there has been criticism that it can take as long as six weeks for payments to come through.
The UK Government is said to be looking at reducing the wait for payment to one month.
A spokeswoman said ministers are “determined to ensure that people joining the universal credit system don’t face hardship”, adding: “We have improved the advanced payment system.”
THe changes announced to the rollout of universal credit have been welcomed by Borders MP John Lamont.
Those changes include the introduction of a free helpline number and new guidance to ensure Department for Work and Pensions staff offer up-front advance payments to anyone needing them.
Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP Mr Lamont said: “There has clearly been concern around the rollout of universal credit, and the steps announced by the UK Government are sensible.
“Anyone who is waiting for money under can receive help. Advance payments are available and paid within days, and if someone is in immediate need, payments can be fast-tracked to be received on the same day.
“These changes will mean greater support for anyone struggling as a result of the move to universal credit.
“Fewer than 10% of claimants have been moved over to the new system, and it is right that we are taking time to make this significant change.
“However, it’s important to remember that the policy aims behind universal credit have cross-party and third-sector support. That’s because universal credit will simplify six benefits with different eligibility and withdrawal criteria into one.
“It will also make work pay for people on lower incomes because their benefits are gradually reduced so that claimants will no longer lose all their support once in work.
“The latest data is clear that claimants receiving universal credit move into work quicker and in greater numbers than those on jobseeker’s allowance.”