The Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) has released figures that reveal the shocking impact of the hated ‘Bedroom Tax’.
Officially known as the ‘under occupancy’ element of Welfare reforms imposed by the UK Tory-Lib Dem Government, the Bedroom Tax has seen Housing Benefit reduced by 14% for anyone who has one bedroom more than Westminster deems is necessary: two bedrooms ‘extra’ results in benefit being slashed by 25%.
With very few Scottish councils having any available one-bedroom properties to which people could ‘down-size’, the Welfare changes have resulted in tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit being hit by massive increases to their rent. This, in turn, has resulted in councils facing soaring levels of rent arrears.
CoSLA has found that 80% of Scottish councils with their own housing stock report they are now receiving just 50% or less of rent due. Of the 26 local authorities who responded to CoSLA questions on the subject, all but one reported an increase in rent arrears, with 75% indicating that non-payment of rent following ‘under occupancy’ changes is directly responsible for the rise in arrears.
There has also been a sharp rise in requests for Discretionary Housing payments for those in particular housing need. Scottish councils received over 22,000 requests by the end of May, which, for most local authorities, represents over four-times the number received in the same period last year.
CoSLA’s President is North Ayrshire councillor David O’Neill, who said, “I derive no pleasure whatsoever in seeing that our predictions about the dire consequences of this ill-conceived policy are starting to be borne out.
“We always said that any saving to the UK Treasury would be reflected in additional costs and financial pressures for tenants and councils. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is now happening.”
Cllr O’Neill, who represents Irvine West on North Ayrshire Council, added, “Councils are being required to reduce housing benefit payments only to see rent arrears rise sharply, with tenants experiencing distress. At the same time, housing services are being undermined by a threat to our income streams.
“The UK Government needs to urgently reconsider this horrendous policy.”