Housing benefit should be devolved to Holyrood say SFHA

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   By a Newsnet reporter

All housing issues should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, and the Department of Work and Pensions is interfering on housing in Scotland, according to Dr Mary Taylor, Chief Executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA).

Dr Taylor was speaking as an expert at the Scottish Affairs Select Committee in the House of Commons on Tuesday, when the Committee was discussing the impact of the Bedroom Tax and other changes to housing benefit in Scotland.

Asked by Committee chair Ian Davidson MP about “friction” between the Scottish Government and Westminster over housing and housing benefits issues, Dr Taylor replied: 

“… the SFHA has long made the argument that housing benefits should be devolved … the system, the powers, the budget etc etc.”

The Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland has also asserted that although the Scottish administration has only limited powers to mitigate the impact of the welfare changes, these powers were being used effectively by the Scottish Government.

Although opinion polls show that a substantial majority of Scots want the Scottish Parliament to have full control over all taxation and benefits, including housing benefit, the anti-independence parties have rejected any such move.

Commenting SNP spokesperson for Work and Pensions Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“The committee experts today recognised the dire effects Westminster’s welfare reform is having on Scotland’s most disadvantaged people- and the Scottish Government’s inability to act, due to housing issues being reserved to London, rather than devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

“The Bedroom Tax is an inherently unfair policy. People on the lowest incomes are paying the price for structural problems affecting the supply of affordable housing in London. The Bedroom Tax is also unworkable – instead of addressing the underlying problems, it undermines the ability of social landlords to invest in the kind of affordable housing that is so badly needed.

“The Tory/Lib Dem coalition are hitting the poorest and most disadvantaged in our society with their austerity measures, while the richest receive a cut in taxes.

“The Bedroom Tax will be imposed on Scotland despite over 90 per cent of Scottish MPs voted against it.

“In Scotland we have an opportunity to change, so that we make our own democratic decisions. To vote No in next year’s referendum would mean leaving Scotland at the mercy of the Westminster system, which on any measure is failing. With independence we have the opportunity to do things differently and better – and we will scrap the Bedroom Tax in an independent Scotland.”