Saturday, 12 October 2013

Scottish Government funding to mitigate Bedroom Tax

North Ayrshire Council is to receive £460,059 from the SNP Scottish Government to help mitigate the effects of the Westminster-imposed Bedroom Tax.

The new money is part of £20m being distributed to local authorities across the country, and will be used by Councils to provide Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) to tenants who get into financial difficulties as a result of their Housing Benefit being cut because of the Bedroom Tax.

Described by the Tory-Lib Dem UK Government as ending an ‘extra room subsidy’, the Bedroom Tax reduces Housing benefit by 14% for anyone who has a bedroom more in their house than Westminster Ministers say they need.  A property with two ‘extra’ bedrooms sees benefit slashed by 25%.

Last month the3towns revealed that, as of August, North Ayrshire Council had already paid-out £285,312 in Discretionary Housing Payments since the UK Government introduced the controversial Bedroom Tax in April.

the3towns also reported there were 1,765 tenants of North Ayrshire Council who were deemed by the UK Government to be ‘under occupying’ their homes.  At the same time, the local authority had just 8 one-bedroom properties available for allocation.  In addition, there were already 3,645 applicants on the Housing Waiting List for one-bedroom properties.  With a combined total of 5,410 applicants but just 8 available properties, the figures revealed there were 675 people chasing every one-bedroom house in North Ayrshire, which meant that tenants affected by the Bedroom Tax had virtually no chance of down-sizing to avoid financial penalties.

Existing Council tenants who have their Housing Benefit cut due to the Bedroom Tax are expected to make-up the shortfall in rent from any other support they receive, such as Jobseekers Allowance.  However, very few tenants in that position can afford to make such payments.  In those circumstances, tenants can apply to the Council for a Discretionary Housing Payment to avoid accruing rent arrears.

The SNP administration of North Ayrshire Council has said it will not evict anyone who gets into rent arrears as a result of the Bedroom Tax, provided tenants work with officers to address problems.

The Scottish Government Housing and Welfare Minister, local MSP Margaret Burgess, told the3towns the additional money allocated to North Ayrshire Council to help make Discretionary Housing Payments meant the local authority had now received the legal maximum allowed by Westminster legislation - £769,882 in total. 

Mrs Burgess, MSP for Cunninghame South, said, “The Bedroom Tax is a horrendous policy that should never have made it off the Tories’ Westminster drawing board.  It is utterly unfair and is devastating the lives of people across Scotland who have no way to avoid the financial penalties Westminster has imposed.

“The Scottish Government is doing what it can, with £20-million announced to boost Discretionary Housing Payments to help people in financial trouble across Scotland.”

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