Friday, 27 June 2014

SNP Council to fully protect victims of Bedroom Tax

All Council and Housing Association tenants who have their Housing Benefit cut as a result of the Bedroom Tax will avoid losing out financially after North Ayrshire Council agreed to cover the reduction through Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP).

The local authority’s SNP Cabinet agreed to fully mitigate financial penalties imposed on public sector tenants who have more bedrooms in their home than the UK Tory-Lib Dem Government says they need. The Council funding will cover the current financial year - from April 1st 2014 to March 31st 2015.

Tenants who are already in receipt of Discretionary Housing Payments or have applied for the support from April 1st of this year do not need to take any further action. Tenants who have never applied or were refused DHP between April 1st 2013 and March 31st 2014 and have not re-applied since April 1st of this year are urged to contact the Council's Welfare Reform Advice Team on 01505 681034 or their own Housing Association.

The Bedroom Tax, which often affects some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in local communities, was imposed on Scotland by the UK Government in London. The current devolved Scottish Parliament does not have the power to repeal or amend the legislation. However, the SNP Scottish Government has made available funding to mitigate the damage caused by the UK Bedroom Tax. One result of Westminster’s cuts to Housing Benefit has been that tenants are unable to meet the full cost of their rent, leading to arrears.

North Ayrshire Council’s announcement regarding full support to protect local people affected by the Bedroom Tax came after Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP assured the local authority it would not be penalised under current rules limiting the amount of money that can be paid under the DHP scheme. The SNP Government will provide the funding to meet the cost of the initiative.

Cllr Willie Gibson, SNP Leader of North Ayrshire Council, said, “We have been given assurances by the Deputy First Minister that we can provide this support immediately, which is extremely important given the difficulties that many people face. The application process will also be made far simpler and those who have applied unsuccessfully since April this year will not have to do so again.”

Cllr Ruth Maguire, SNP Cabinet Member for Finance and Property, added, “I am absolutely delighted we can offer this support to every single person in North Ayrshire who has been hit by the Bedroom Tax.

“The most important thing is to be in a position to support some of the most vulnerable families in our communities and not be constrained by a legal process to lift the DHP cap.”

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