THE bedroom tax is to be effectively brought to an end in Scotland, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said.
The coalition is to approve demands from the Scottish Government at Holyrood which will mean emergency housing support payments are made available to all Scots affected by the controversial welfare reform. This will allow councils to fully mitigate its impact.
It came as Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the controversial measure should be axed because it was not working as intended.
The SNP administration had requested that a cap on payments – used by councils to support tenants affected by the change – is lifted, to fully cover the impact of the reform. Current rules constrain what can legally be spent on discretionary housing payments (DHPs).
Mr Clegg said yesterday: “There are some councils in Scotland who have run up to the limit of the funds they have available to them for discretionary housing payments. There is this limit – a cap in effect – on what councils can use which I think needs to be addressed, and we will be making an announcement about that shortly.”
He continued: “This is obviously a highly controversial policy. It is one we are constantly keeping under review.
“It is one where I have insisted there are more funds available to deal with the hard cases. I am confirming there will be an announcement from the coalition in dealing with this issue of the cap that in effect prevents Scottish councils from using the money as freely as they wish.”
The bedroom tax, or spare room subsidy, involves cutting housing benefit from social housing tenants with spare rooms. Councils can make DHPs to tenants at risk of falling behind in rent and getting into debt.
Mr Rennie said in an interview yesterday that the tax should go. “I don’t think it should stay,” he said.
“The principle behind [the spare room subsidy] I can understand but, to be honest, I don’t think it is working as it was intended and I think it should just go, and it should go quickly.”
SNP MSP Linda Fabiani, who sits on the Scottish Parliament’s welfare reform committee, said: “The Lib Dems have only themselves to blame for getting us into this situation in the first place – rushing headlong with the Tories into government and inflicting the bedroom tax on the people of Scotland.”
A Downing Street source added: “The Chancellor is clear that the UK government will not stand in the way of the Scottish Government if it wants to increase the amount it spends on discretionary housing payments. He expects to make an announcement soon.”