Monday 25 March 2013 by Rory MacKinnon Morning Star Scotland reporter
Scottish Labour must get serious about battling the bedroom tax, its own MSP has warned as £4.5 billion in welfare cuts loom beyond the border.
Coatbridge & Chryston MSP Elaine Smith issued an urgent plea today after SNP deputy Nicola Sturgeon revealed the bruising new estimate of coalition benefit cuts to Scotland’s households.
Ms Smith, who convenes Labour’s Campaign for Socialism faction, called on party leader Johann Lamont to publicly back the local councillors and activists who are fighting the controversial “bedroom tax.”
From April 1, those in council homes or renting from housing associations will lose up to 24 per cent of their benefit if their home is deemed to be “under-occupied,” with only one bedroom allowed for each couple or individual over 16.
More than 660,000 households stand to be affected, with each set to lose an average £728 a year – the equivalent of six weeks’ worth of payments.
In East Ayrshire and East Dunbartonshire – part of Ms Smith’s constituency – between 51 and 55 per cent of all social tenants will lose out.
SNP First Minister Alex Salmond pledged on Saturday that SNP-led councils would not evict tenants from council homes if the penalty left them unable to keep up with rent.
But Scottish Labour today had yet to make a similar vow.
Ms Smith said today it was
“hard to think of anything worse than being thrown out of your own home.
“The Labour Party at local level has to take a lead in opposing this and the Scottish government, if it is serious about its opposition to the tax, has a duty to help them,”