Call for action as bedroom tax kicks in

At the start of this month, the UK Government’s bedroom tax came into force and I have joined with colleagues in calling for action from the SNP to support vulnerable households.

I have written on this blog before outlining the background to the bedroom tax and my objections to it

The position now is as it was then aside from a partial u-turn to exempt foster carers and armed forces personnel.

Over the weekend, the City of Edinburgh Council confirmed that it is to pursue a policy whereby social tenants affected by the bedroom tax will not face eviction as a result of reduced housing benefit.   On Monday I visited Fife Council and talked with Councillor David Ross and senior officials in Fife about the implications of the raft of welfare reforms the Conservative Government is currently pushing ahead with.

Like Edinburgh, Fife are determined that no one will be evicted due to debts built up as a result of the Bedroom Tax.     I want to see action from the SNP Government to ensure that a similar approach is taken across the country.

The SNP say they don’t want evictions so I am disappointed that they have ignored calls from Scottish Labour to legislate for such protection.  We wanted to see emergency legislation that would protect people from eviction as long as they were engaging with advice services.

I first raised the need for the Scottish Government to put its money where its mouth is and provide financial assistance to local authorities and social landlords to allow them to protect tenants caught up in the bedroom tax last month.  Disappointingly the SNP government have not acknowledged that their decision to allocate the bulk of their cuts to local government over the last two years is creating a perfect storm for local authorities.

Sensible welfare reform is required to simplify the system but the bedroom tax is far from fair – in fact, the policy is in such a mess that it could end up costing more that it saves as social tenants are pushed into homelessness or more expensive private rented accommodation.

It’s impact on council and housing association budgets could be totally counter productive as combined with the impact of direct payments it will make it harder to budget for rental income. At the same time more investment will be required to support advice services and access to IT facilities to enable tenants to negotiate their way through the raft of changes coming through welfare reforms. 

Alongside calling for action from the Scottish Government to alleviate the worst aspects of the bedroom tax, I will continue to campaign with colleagues for David Cameron to bin the policy.

David Cameron’s Bedroom Tax tells you all you need to know about him and his government.

With one hand he gives millionaires a tax cut and with the other he’s hitting hard-pressed families and the disabled with an unfair and unworkable bedroom tax.