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Thursday 27th December 2012 | 09:42
SNP press release
An MSP and former Director of a Housing Association has condemned the Westminster Government’s bedroom tax, after new analysis revealed the devastating effect it will have on families on the lowest incomes. Under the pretext of tackling under-occupancy in social housing, the Tory-led Government is to introduce an under-occupancy penalty or ‘bedroom tax’ from next April, which will see social tenants with spare bedrooms forced to pay more.
This takes no account of the availability of smaller properties in the area, nor of the effect of moving away from family, carers, schools and other local ties. Housing charities such as Crisis and Shelter Scotland have argued that the serious mismatch between available housing stock and the actual demand will mean the tax will almost certainly drive up rent arrears and evictions.
The tax has been widely condemned by a range of charities and housing organisations, citing numerous examples of people caught up in the new tax – including single parents with part-time access to their children; couples who use their ‘spare’ bedroom when recovering from an illness or operation; families with disabled children; and disabled people – including those
living in adapted properties. Even foster carers will not automatically be exempt, and will have to apply for a limited pot of discretionary funding.
In a letter to Linda Fabiani MSP, Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess outlines the Scottish Government’s predicted impact of the new tax on Scotland. Not only are over 100,000 households to be affected – or one in five of the entire social rented sector – but households will lose up to £52 a month – or over £600 a year. Overall, the Government puts the total
loss to Scotland at £60m-£65m a year.
Commenting, Ms Fabiani – who sits on the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee – said:
“I’m absolutely shocked at these figures, which reveal the true extent of the damage caused by the Tories’ bedroom tax.
“The Tories’ claims that these people can simply move to a smaller property to avoid this tax would be laughable if the issue were not so serious. In most cases people can’t just up sticks and move to a smaller property.
“Even in the unlikely scenario that there is a vacant property – people have places of work, they send their kids to the local school, they may live close to relatives – but the Tories expect them to just abandon all of this.
“Yet again, we see the Tories taking money from the most vulnerable in society – and taking money from the Scottish economy. This is £60m that will not be spent in Scotland, which will hurt economic recovery.
“This is another example of why leaving these decisions to be made in Westminster leaves Scotland at such a disadvantage. If we were able to join up our welfare and benefits policies to our Housing strategy – we could produce policies which work for the most vulnerable in society – not against them.”