Plea with Labour councils to ‘see sense’ on Bedroom Tax


   By a Newsnet reporter  
The SNP has called on Johann Lamont and the Labour leadership to intervene and prevent petty politics blocking the SNP’s Bedroom Tax Declaration which aims to prevents council tenants being evicted.
This follows the Labour administration in Fife Council voting yesterday to block an SNP motion calling for a clear “No Bedroom Tax Evictions Policy” for council tenants.

  The SNP motion condemned the Westminster government’s under occupation penalty and called on Fife Council to advise and support its tenants, to record any new rent arrears related to the bedroom tax separately from other debts to the Council, and never to evict any of its tenants purely on the grounds of bedroom tax rent arrears.
The SNP motion also demanded that Bedroom Tax arrears will not be used as an impediment to any future allocations, exchanges or housing transfers for Fife Council tenants.
Labour’s refusal to support the policy in Fife sparked angry scenes from anti-Bedroom Tax protesters in the public gallery.  It is estimated that around 5000 council tenants and 1000 housing association tenants in the county will be penalised by the cut to Housing Benefit.
SNP controlled councils have pledged that they will not evict any tenants who get into arrears as a result of the bedroom tax.  However Labour controlled councils have refused to implement similar measures.  Fife Council is the latest Labour controlled local authority to vote down SNP motions opposing evictions. 
Speaking to a local newspaper last month, David Torrance, the SNP MSP for Kirkcaldy, said that he had been inundated by enquiries from constituents who feared they would see a cut in their incomes due to the Bedroom Tax.
Mr Torrance said:
“It’s a very unfair and unjust tax on the most vulnerable members of society.  It doesn’t take into account medical conditions and disabilities in different cases that require extra bedrooms.
“The Westminster Government has forced this on us and there’s no leeway in this at all. We believe it’s going to affect over 1200 houses in my constituency alone. It’s been ill thought out and we do not have one or two bedroom houses to move people into.
“So these people are caught in a trap here. They don’t have anywhere to move to, so they have to stay where they are and are having to pay the tax.
“It could end up costing families an extra £24 a week, that’s £100 a month which a lot of people don’t have in their pockets at such difficult economic times.”
Now, Rod Campbell, SNP MSP for North East Fife, is writing to Johann Lamont calling on her to intervene and ensure Labour councils to work with the SNP to try and prevent the evictions that are threatened by the Westminster imposed tax.
He said:
“This petty point scoring by the Labour councillors represents a failure on their part, and actually blocks the local authority’s powers to defend some of the most vulnerable people in Fife.
“The Labour leadership in Scotland must see sense and speak with both Fife council and other Labour councils in Scotland to ensure this will not happen again.
“Cooperation – like we have seen form the Labour group in Edinburgh – with the SNP’s progressive moves to defend people is the correct way forward for Labour.”
Dunfermline Councillor, Brian Goodall, the SNP’s Housing spokesperson in Fife, said:
“I can fully understand why the public in the gallery were so angry about what happened, I’m extremely disappointed with the behaviour of Fife’s Labour councillors too – they have let the people down and this will be remembered here for a very long time to come.”