Tackling the ‘bedroom tax’

A cash package worth nearly £400,000 has landed in council coffers to help those affected by the ‘bedroom tax’.

The news was welcomed by Linlithgow MSP Fiona Hyslop who called the measure an “unfair tax”.

She said: “The Bedroom Tax is a hugely unfair policy and will hit the poorest and most vulnerable people the hardest.

“Topping up Discretionary Housing Payments by £378,129 for West Lothian residents is a welcome announcement from the Scottish Government and means that West Lothian Council will now receive a total of £632,777 to help those who need it most cope with this unfair tax.”

The funding was broken down by West Lothian Council.

A council spokesman said: “The council has been pro-active and already made use of provisions within Department for Work and Pensions regulations to add £200,000 to the DHP fund from the council budget prior to this announcement, which meant that the total DHP fund for 2013/14 in West Lothian was £454,648.

“We have now had confirmation that a further £178,129 will be made available. This gives a total DHP fund for 2013/14 in West Lothian of £632,777.

“If people have rent arrears, they need to speak to their housing officer as a matter of urgency to discuss their situation - they could be eligible for help from the DHP. Housing officers can provide support and advice about how to proceed.

“People who are facing financial difficulties but not in council housing should contact the Citizens’ Advice Bureau for help.”

But the Labour group leader at West Lothian Council John McGinty said even more needs to be done to counter the effects of the tax.

He added: “It is now generally accepted that it will cost £50 million to fully offset the effects of the Bedroom Tax across Scotland and whilst it would be churlish not to welcome the £20 million allocated by the Scottish Government, the plain fact of the matter is that it simply is not enough to do the job.

“The Scottish Government could sort out the Bedroom Tax now in Scotland but it chooses not to.”

This week, the Scottish Housing Regulator published research findings on the early impact of the bedroom tax on social landlords.

The research found small changes in the level of arrears in rent due to registered social landlords (RSLs) in the three months following the removal of the Housing Benefit Spare Room Subsidy, commonly known as the bedroom tax. This comes against a backdrop of increasing arrears over the last two years for both RSLs and local authority landlords.

Iain Muirhead, the Regulator’s director of strategy and communications, said the research showed “an emerging and complex picture.”

The research also found that two thirds of social landlords estimated that up to five per cent of their arrears at the end of last June were attributable to the removal of the Spare Room Subsidy (the bedroom tax).