Scots Lib Dems vote against party leadership on bedroom tax

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   By a Newsnet reporter

Delegates to the Liberal Democrats Scottish conference in Dundee have rejected the party leadership’s support for the controversial bedroom tax, which cuts housing benefit for those deemed to be in homes too large for their needs.

The party leadership came in for severe criticism from party activists, who overwhelmingly passed a motion calling on the party to reconsider its position on the housing benefit cuts.  Only one hand was raised against the motion when the vote was taken while MPs present sat in silence.  

One of the few present to oppose the motion was Jim Wallace, Advocate General for Scotland and a former party leader.

Former Lib Dem MSP Robert Brown, who is now a councillor, said that the measure would cut people’s “survival income”, and added, “I hope that conference will send the clearest of messages to the government, to Liberal Democrat ministers, that the policy is damaging and unfair.”

Another former MSP, Mike Rumbles, also condemned the party’s policy, saying that while he appreciated the party must make compromises in government, “taking an average £8 a week to encourage people to move to a smaller home is a nonsense.”  He added that the policy is mean-spirited.  

Despite the vote, Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie defended the bedroom tax, saying:  

“The bedroom tax is tough, but it is central to the welfare reforms.

“If we believe in the principle of making work pay, we need to reform the welfare system to be able to cover that.

“Now, if you’ve got a house that you couldn’t afford if you were working, that traps you on welfare, and I think we should incentivise people out of welfare.”

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

“The Lib Dem conference has descended into farce with the very welcome passage of this resolution calling for the UK Government to reconsider the bedroom tax. The Liberal Democrats in the cabinet – including Scottish Secretary Michael Moore and Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander – must now act on their own party motion and echo the SNP’s view that this tax has to be stopped before it does huge damage.”

“It is now time for Scottish Liberal Democrats to reflect that it is their party which is complicit in imposing the Bedroom tax. Voting against it in a small party event in Dundee may salve their consciences, but unless they take action to reverse the policy it will do nothing else.”