By Martin Kelly
Jim Eadie, MSP for Edinburgh Southern, has today (Monday) written to Scotland Office Minister David Mundell MP urging him to support the call made by the Scottish government for Lord Freud and the UK Government to lift the cap on discretionary housing payments (DHPs).
The call follows an agreement between the SNP and Scottish Labour which will see the Scottish Government provide further financial assistance to those affected by the Bedroom Tax. However the extra cash can only be allocated if the UK Government agrees to lift the limit for DHPs.
In his letter, the MSP writes: “I read with interest the article in the Scotsman of 13th January where you commented on the Scottish Government’s ability to exempt everyone in Scotland from the impact of the bedroom tax.
“Whilst I acknowledge that you are entitled to your opinion on this matter, I simply cannot understand how the Scottish Government can act further without the UK Government lifting the Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) cap.
“The Department for Work and Pensions’ ‘Discretionary Housing Payments Guidance Manual Including Local Authority Good Practice Guide’ states:
‘Once you have met your authority’s overall cash limit you cannot award any more DHPs. By cash limit we mean two and a half times your government contribution. If you award above this limit, you are breaking the law.’
“Taking this advice into account, could you explain to me how the Scottish Government could legally further mitigate against the bedroom tax without the DHP cap being lifted by the UK Government?”
The letter follows comments made by Mr Mundell in a Scotsman article on 13 January in which the Tory MP said that the Scottish Government already had sufficient powers to rid Scotland of the bedroom tax. However,the SNP has insisted this ignored the restrictions placed on the Scottish Government’s legal ability to provide further DHPs to those affected.
Around £50m is needed to fully offset the impact of the Bedroom tax in Scotland. Emergency funding provided has already reached the £38m limit allowed under Westminster rules, but the SNP wants this cap lifted in order to allow them to increase support by a further £12m.
In a further statement, SNP MSP Mr Eadie, who raised the issue of raising the DHPs in a question to the First Minister at FMQs last week, said:
“Mr Mundell knows full well that the Scottish Government currently does not have the powers to provide further financial assistance to families being affected by the bedroom tax.
“He has a brass neck to suggest that the Scottish government is failing to support families affected by the bedroom tax when it is his own government that is imposing this hardship on 80,000 people across Scotland.
“I have today written to Mr Mundell urging him to add his weight to the call on Lord Freud to recognise that the majority of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament now want to see the DHP cap lifted.
“The Scottish Government has earmarked a further £15 million to help people affected by the bedroom tax, yet the DWP has stated that to spend this without the cap being lifted would be breaking the law.
“The UK Government must act, and they must act now.”