Local authorities across Scotland controlled by the Scottish National Party (SNP) will block the eviction of social housing tenants unable to pay their rent due to the controversial ‘bedroom tax’, the First Minister has announced.
Under the new measures to be introduced by the UK Government from April 1, tenants of working age could lose up to a quarter of their housing benefit if they are deemed to be under-occupying their home.
Alan Wyllie from the No2BedroomTax Campaign said:
“It is not enough!
“The SNP should not be playing party politics in this.
“The SNP has the power to protect ALL Scots but they have decided to only help those Scots who live in SNP-Controlled Councils.
“The Scottish Government has a duty to protect all Scots! My message to the SNP is this:
“Put People before profit.
“You have a duty to protect ALL Scots. You have the power to stop ALL evictions.
“Use that power, now!”
Nine out of the 32 local authorities across Scotland are led by the SNP – Angus, Argyll and Bute, Clackmannanshire, East Ayrshire, Highlands, Midlothian, Perth and Kinross, North Ayrshire and Dundee – though only the latter is a majority administration following the resignation of a councillor in Angus last month.
However, the ability of those administrations to act on the First Minister’s pledge will be subject to the ‘arithmetic’ of each individual council’s make-up, an SNP party spokesman conceded.
Today’s announcement by the First Minister comes after Dundee City Council vowed to protect tenants facing a shortfall once the levy is enacted.
The council last week pledged that – where the director of housing is satisfied affected tenants are doing all that can be reasonably expected to avoid falling into arrears – they will use all legitimate means to collect rent due, except eviction.
The Scottish Government wrote to landlords north of the border earlier this week urging them to consider the example set by Dundee whilst raising the possibility of reclassifying rooms to prevent tenants being susceptible to the reduction.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith will sit down with members of the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee for a ‘private’ meeting this Tuesday.
Addressing delegates at spring conference in Inverness, the SNP leader said:
”With each passing day it becomes clearer that the Westminster system is not fit for any purpose – it is further away than ever from Scotland’s values, and well past its time.
“The iniquitous Bedroom Tax is the latest example – in a House of Commons debate led by the SNP and our allies in Plaid Cymru, over 90 per cent of Scottish MPs voted against it.
“We know from the Scottish Government research that the extra costs the Bedroom Tax impose on the Scottish economy will outweigh any savings that the UK Government makes, even before we factor in wider social costs – the distress and disruption it will cause to families. But still it is imposed on Scotland.
“And to add insult to injury, the architect of this shambles – Iain Duncan Smith – has to be dragged kicking and screaming to deign to defend his policy to a committee of the national Parliament.
“Friends, this is an iniquitous, unfair, anti-family imposition conceived because of runaway rent levels in the south.
“Why should people who would impose such iniquity have any power and authority over the Scottish people.
“Friends, we have acted to mitigate the worst impacts of welfare changes. Acting with COSLA we have sheltered hundreds of thousands of families from council tax rises, we have established loan funds, increased support for advice centres.
“And today I can announce that all SNP-led local authorities will follow the lead of Dundee in halting the threat of evictions from this disgraceful tax for those struggling to pay.
“Friends, however, what Scotland needs is not mitigation but power, not just a defence against Westminster but a removal of Westminster authority over the Scottish people.”
All nine administrations serve a total of 1.07 million Scots – approximately a fifth of the population.
An SNP party spokesman said:
“It depends on the exact arithmetic of every council but we’re confident of delivering it as we have in Dundee.”
A motion moved at a meeting of Dundee City Council’s Housing Committee on March 11 claimed the ‘bedroom tax’ was
“regressive, retrograde and inhumane”
and ensured tenants who fall behind on their rent as a result of the change are not evicted.
Speaking to Holyrood last week in the wake of their decision, leader of Dundee City Council, Ken Guild, said:
“The SNP stands for the interests of Scotland nationally and locally and the interests of Scotland are to improve the individual communities within Scotland, and the SNP is wholly committeed to doing that.
“The SNP, for example, on Monday night we had the debate on welfare reform and the SNP, against Labour opposition, passed a motion that Dundee City Council would not evict tenants who fell into arrears purely because of the ‘bedroom tax’. And Labour actually opposed that, so there’s an example of what the SNP can do at local level.”