Lamont challenged to condemn ‘cruel’ Bedroom Tax letter


  By a Newsnet reporter
The Scottish National Party has called on Scottish Labour Leader Johann Lamont to denounce a letter South Ayrshire Council has sent to tenants who have fallen victim to the Bedroom Tax.
The letter warns tenants who have found themselves in arrears of as little as £250, that repossession action is to be taken against them and that they may be reported to Children’s Services.

The moves by the council, which is a Tory minority in partnership with Labour, also says the tenants credit rating may be harmed and that they could face having to pay legal costs of £400.

The letters have caused anger amongst anti-Bedroom tax campaigners with spokespeople hitting out that the move.

Bedroom Tax protester Alan Wylie said: “We have seen letters like this but nothing with such a terrible threat.

“The council are effectively saying we will put you on the street then report you to the people who take children from their parents.

“The inference is that because they will be homeless, they won’t be able to look after their kids.

“It’s sickening and I have spoken to people who are terrified because of this bullying.  Whoever came up with this strategy is behaving like a childsnatcher.”

Newsnet Scotland has been told that the tenants who received the letters are unwilling to speak to the media and have “genuine concerns about their family”.

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

“The letter which has been sent out by this joint Tory/Labour authority is cruel and of a threatening nature – Johann Lamont should denounce it immediately.

“The letter would undoubtedly cause a great deal of stress – the recipient is told repossession action could cost them £400 and it essentially threatens to take any children away. The council agreed in March that no families would be evicted over debts caused by the bedroom tax, so why has this letter been sent?

“One of the most significant gains of independence is that Scotland will have full control over its welfare system. That means only with a Yes vote will we finally be able to get ride of the unjust bedroom tax and have a welfare state that reflects the views and votes of the people of Scotland.”

The council is run by a partnership between the Conservative and Labour groups.  The council leader is Conservative Bill McIntosh with Labour councillor John McDowell acting as his deputy.

Last month the SNP South Ayrshire Council group proposed a motion asking that the council “restates its opposition to the bedroom tax”, but the move was blocked by the Tory/Labour partnership.

On the Labour South Ayrshire website, the party said it had “… entered into a partnership with the Conservatives and Independents to run South Ayrshire for the good of the people.”

The website claimed that a ” ‘No Evictions’ motion put forward by Labour Leader John McDowall”, had been backed by the council.  However, Newsnet Scotland can reveal that Labour in fact blocked such a move after it was proposed by the council’s SNP group.

Earlier this year, the administration, which said it had just 14 spare one-bedroom homes for people seeking to move, blocked an SNP amendment that called for a no evictions policy for people with Bedroom Tax arrears.  A proposal put forward by Labour was supported by the Conservatives, that said: “eviction action will not be pursued for an initial period of up to 12 months”.

The letters, threatening court action and repossession, appear to contradict the council’s own temporary no-evictions policy which is to be reviewed early next year.

Newsnet Scotland has contacted Mr McDowall asking for the Labour group’s response to the letters.