Bedroom tax becoming test of Lamont’s leadership


  By a Newsnet reporter

The SNP has claimed that the failure of Labour councils to act on the Bedroom Tax is rapidly becoming a test of Johann Lamont’s leadership after another Labour dominated council refused to protect people affected by the new legislation, from eviction.

North Lanarkshire Council yesterday became the latest Labour local authority to refuse to back the SNP on a non-eviction policy for those affected by the Bedroom Tax.  The SNP group on the council had moved an amendment backing a no-eviction policy at yesterday’s full council meeting, but were voted down by the Labour group.

The SNP motion was defeated by 42 to 23 after Labour councillors voted against the no-evictions policy.  Speaking after the vote, council leader Jim McCabe defended his party’s decision, saying:

“It’s easy to say we’ll have no evictions but the truth is that the picture is much more complex. We’ll analyse the impact of all the welfare reforms, not just the bedroom tax, and deal with them in a sensible, sensitive way.”

He added: “We have demonstrated already that we will work closely with our tenants to help them through this and that work will continue. And I guarantee that this council will do everything possible to protect the most vulnerable in our communities in the face of this right-wing war on the poor.”

Earlier this week, Labour called on the Scottish Parliament to impose legislation that would have made it illegal to evict people who fall into arrears as a result of the Bedroom Tax.  However, the party faced claims that the call was merely a means of diverting from the decision by several Labour run local authorities to refuse to back a no-evictions policy.

Last weekend, the nine SNP led councils in Scotland pledged not to evict people affected by the Bedroom Tax who are doing all they reasonably can to avoid falling into arrears.

It also emerged that the Labour leader of North Lanarshire council himself had refused to back his party’scalls for new legislation.  Appearing before Holyrood’s Welfare Reform Committee on Tuesday, Mr McCabe said that he was opposed to a Scotland-wide solution and to a no-evictions policy, saying that some tenants may take advantage of it. 

Mr McCabe said: “With the greatest respect to Dundee and I respect their decision or any other council to say ‘no we’re not going to evict’ – you’re opening a door to a certain extent to some people who may take advantage of that.”

He continued: “What I said about councils doing their own thing – they will do that. It’s different strokes for different folks. What suits Dundee might not suit north Lanarkshire and what suits the highlands might not suit the borders, in all instances … Councils will make their own mind up how best to attack this, but at least we can look at each other’s practices to see which one fits us.”

Commenting, SNP MSP Jamie Hepburn who sits on the Welfare Reform Committee said:

“This is rapidly becoming a major embarrassment for the Labour Party leadership who are so unable to work positively with their own councillors that they demanded legislation to overrule them.

“If SNP-led councils have been able to stand up and say they will not evict tenants affected by the Bedroom Tax who are doing their best to pay their bills, why are Labour local authorities incapable of following suit?

“The botched response Labour is making to this hugely damaging and unfair tax is rapidly turning this into a leadership issue for Johann Lamont.

“There is no doubt that the Bedroom Tax is an abhorrent policy and the level of outrage surrounding what is being imposed is entirely justified.

“The Bedroom Tax needs to be scrapped completely, and the Scottish Parliament needs the powers to scrap it. Only a Yes vote in September 2014 will give us the chance to do that, and ensure that welfare in Scotland reflects the values of people living here rather than the values of the Westminster system.”