LABOUR today called on the Scottish Government to intervene to protect those worst hit by the “bedroom tax”.
It claimed SNP ministers had powers to help protect vulnerable families and individuals who will be forced to pay more rent or move out of their homes when their housing benefit is cut from next month.
The UK Government is reducing payments to all working-age tenants in council or housing association accommodation with one or more spare rooms.
More than 5000 households in Edinburgh are set to lose out and Labour and the SNP have both condemned the rule change.
Today Labour claimed the Scottish Government could ease the plight of those due to be hit by the bedroom tax by introducing a “no evictions” policy – pledging no-one would be kicked out of their home simply because of the new rules.
Ministers were urged to redesignate what counts as a spare room to get round the law, and to allocate £50 million to make up the difference between old and new housing benefits levels.
Lothians Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said: “This is what devolution is all about. The SNP government have the power and resources to mitigate the effects of the bedroom tax and they’re choosing not to act.
“People are living in fear at the moment, worried about how they’re going to make ends meet, scared they will lose their homes. They need their parliament to stand up for them, not to exploit their vulnerability to try and progress the case for independence.”
The Scottish Government insisted it was opposed to the bedroom tax and had made that case on several occasions to the UK Government.
A spokeswoman said it had already strengthened protection for tenants against eviction for rent arrears in advance of the rule changes, to ensure proceedings for eviction were always the last resort. She added: “The Scottish Government is providing an extra £2.5m to social landlords to ensure there is support on hand for people who will lose housing benefit due to the under occupancy measures and other housing benefit cuts.”
I don’t know where I’m going to find this money
Maurice Scullion, 46, has his three sons – 16-year-old twins Sean and Callum and nine-year-old Luke – to stay every weekend and during school holidays. But the bedroom tax means he will have to find an extra £15 every week to pay for the room they stay in.
He says he doesn’t know where he will find the money and fears he could be forced out of the two-bedroom council flat in Magdalene which he was allocated five years ago after becoming ill with cancer.
Sean has autism and Mr Scullion says the regular weekend visits are an important part of his routine. He said: “I’ve written to David Cameron and told him my circumstances and asked would he like to come here and explain to my autistic son why he is not going to be able to come and stay with his dad any more.”
Mr Scullion will apply for discretionary support, but knows there is no guarantee he will get any financial help.
“I’ve already been cutting things back to the bare bones but I don’t know where I’m going to find this money. It’s a big worry.”