Labour calls on the Scottish Government to fund Bedroom Tax

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  By Martin Kelly
 
Scottish Labour has been slammed after calling for the Scottish Government to fully fund the bedroom tax, claiming only half the funding needed had been allocated.
 
The calls, from Scottish Labour MSP Iain Gray, followed the announcement by Finance Secretary John Swinney of a twenty million pound funding package to help those hit by the UK Government housing benefit cut.

Yesterday, following exchanges after John Swinney delivered his draft budget speech, Mr Gray who is Scottish Labour’s Finance Spokesman criticised what he claimed was a lack of funding from the Scottish Government.

Mr Gray, who was replaced by Johann Lamont as leader of Labour in Scotland, also criticised the Scottish Government’s decision not to announce further funding for the Bedroom Tax next year.

Speaking in the chamber, the Labour Finance spokesman insisted what was needed was, “A budget to banish the bedroom tax from Scotland” and added:

“Mr Swinney has found less than half the funds needed for the Bedroom Tax this year.  In order to hide the fact that his budget itself has no provision at all to help next year.”

The former Labour leader claimed that councils would be forced to prioritise between “deserving and undeserving victims” of the controversial legislation that will see many having their benefits cut if deemed to have a spare room.

However Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney derided the Labour MSP’s attack pointing out that only last week Mr Gray’s own leader and her deputy contradicted one another in the same evening when asked if Labour would scrap the tax.

Speaking on STV Labour MP Anas Sarwar claimed his party would scrap the policy if it was in Government, but his Scottish superior Johann Lamont, when pressed, refused to confirm what Labour policy actually was.

Mr Swinney said: “Before the Labour party comes here and tries to lecture me about the Bedroom Tax, I suggest they get some coherence into their argument and back us on the steps we are taking on tackling the iniquitous effects of the Bedroom Tax on the people of Scotland.” he said.

John Swinney answers Budget Questions

Speaking for the Scottish Tories, Gavin Brown said Mr Swinney’s budget had under-delivered.  He accused the Scottish Government of penalising business by increasing business rates and of cutting funding to colleges.

In a withering response, Mr Swinney rounded on his Tory counterpart pointing out that the Scottish economy was currently outperforming the rest of the UK.  Mr Swinney also explained that business rates annually rose across the UK as a result of inflation, and Scotland was no different.

Mr Swinney had announced his draft budget plans which he insisted was a budget for growth.  The cabinet secretary announced extra funding for housing, sport and universities and colleges.  There will also be an extension of the public sector pay increase cap of one per cent but with extra cash for low earners. 

There is also extra funding for childcare and a pledge to safeguard funding for the Scottish NHS.

Budget speech and questions in full