By Martin Kelly
The SNP has called on the UK Government to implement the minor legal change needed to allow funding to be made available that will mitigate the effects of the Bedroom Tax in Scotland.
It has emerged that despite a series of letters from the Scottish Government, including Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, seeking the required change in the law, that no reply has been received from the UK Minister responsible.
The change is required before up to £50m in Discretionary Housing Payments can be made available to people suffering due to having their housing benefit cut after they were deemed to have too many bedrooms.
The money was made available by the Scottish Government after they reached agreement with the Scottish Labour party on the most effective way of preventing evictions under the Bedroom Tax.
Five weeks ago the Deputy First Minister wrote to Welfare Minister Lord Freud to request that the legal restrictions on the amount the Scottish Government can provide in discretionary housing payments be lifted – but has yet to receive a reply
The Scottish Government wants to increase the help it already provides by £27m to £50m. Current legislation has imposed a cap of £22.85m.
Commenting, East Kilbride MSP and member of the Welfare Reform Committee Linda Fabiani said:
“The Bedroom Tax is an unfair, iniquitous policy which targets the most vulnerable people in society. It is absolutely ridiculous that the Scottish Government ever had to use scarce resources to mop up Westminster’s mess and help people suffering under a policy that Scotland comprehensively rejected.
“However, it’s even more ludicrous that Westminster is able to stand in the way of the Scottish Government’s attempts to help victims of the Bedroom Tax – perfectly demonstrating the limitations of the status quo and the necessity of independence.
“With the full powers of independence we can create a welfare state that supports the most vulnerable people in society and ensures that the Bedroom Tax is consigned to history – in the meantime, the UK Government must stop stalling, lift the cap and allow the Scottish Government to mitigate the effects of Westminster’s disastrous policy.
“The Scottish Parliament agreed to this support being provided in the budget. While we may disagree over the referendum – I hope that Labour MSPs will put politics aside and join with us in calling on the UK Government to lift the cap and allow much needed help to reach the people who need it.”