Scrap bedroom tax


The UK Government’s bedroom tax should not be imposed on Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has told representatives of the UK Government in London.

The Deputy First Minister was at a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee in Domestic form (JMC D), where she made clear the Scottish Government’s opposition to under occupancy measures which will cut housing benefit for people deemed to have extra rooms.

Ms Sturgeon has also highlighted the discrepancies in funding awarded to help deal with the effects of the bedroom tax and wider housing benefit changes.

Latest figures show that, despite having a similar number of people affected by under occupancy measures, Scotland will receive just £10 million in Discretionary Housing Payments in 2013/14 while London will receive £56 million.
Ms Sturgeon also urged that, if the UK government insists on implementing the policy then, at the very least, disabled people and those living in both temporary accommodation and supported accommodation, like some Women’s Aid refuges, should be exempted.

Speaking after the meeting, which was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Ms Sturgeon said:

“Our view on the bedroom tax is clear. It is a misguided policy that must be withdrawn.

“This meeting was a good opportunity to make that point abundantly clear, although there remains little indication that the UK Government is prepared to change course.

“That is deeply worrying, in particular as there is a discrepancy in the funding made available to help those affected by the bedroom tax and wider housing benefit changes. It just does not seem fair that London should receive £56m, while Scotland, with a similar number of people set to lose out from the bedroom tax, should receive just £10m.

“If the bedroom tax is not withdrawn, then at the very least, the policy should exempt vulnerable groups such as disabled people. The exemption should also include homeless families in temporary accommodation and those in supported accommodation like women’s refuges.

“Local councils often need to use temporary accommodation for families who lose their house while a permanent solution is sought. Similarly, it is illogical that some types of local authority supported accommodation, like Women’s Aid refuges, are not exempt.”

Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess accompanied the Deputy First Minister and separately met with Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform today, to again press the case for the under occupancy measures to be scrapped.

Scottish Labour were critical of the SNP’s response, with MSP Drew Smith MSP seeking to lay blame over what he termed SNP “inaction”.

He said: “Despite this bedroom tax having been a significant concern, it is only now, with just 25 days until it comes into force that Nicola Sturgeon flies to London to talk to the coalition government.

“If she cannot deliver significant action then this trip will be seen as too little, too late. There are discussions going on now about how this can be alleviated in Scotland: but increasingly the SNP government has been shown to be behind events, too slow to act and too late to offer help for the thousands of Scots who are going to lose out.

“What we need from Nicola Sturgeon isn’t more angry words, or grand claims about Scotland in 2016; what we need is for her to offer remedies which can be implemented in three weeks.

“Labour has made clear our opposition to the bedroom tax across every part of the UK. Scottish Labour has offered our help to find solutions which work for Scots at risk of financial harm. As yet, there has been silence by the government. Yet again, the SNP has been caught out and has failed to move swiftly. If nothing at all is done for those that will be hardest hit then It will be the SNP who will need to explain for their inaction.”