Holyrood action on bedroom tax ‘is flawed’ say MPs

SCOTTISH Government action on the so-called bedroom tax is flawed, according to a committee of MPs.

Tommy Sheridan joins thousands protesting against the Bedroom Tax in March of last year. Picture: Robert Perry

Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee concluded that tenants in arrears because of the UK welfare reform policy should have their debt written off and “charges” refunded.

The conclusion restates comments made by committee convener Ian Davidson, a Labour MP, last month.

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Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney has already announced he is topping up a fund to £50 million so he can offset the benefit cut, known as a tax by its opponents.

But Mr Davidson says the action does not go far enough, and he criticised the use of discretionary housing payments (DHPs) to tackle the problem.

“While we recognise the Scottish Government’s political desire to enter a conflict of powers, this is a battle which it is highly unlikely to win and where the casualties will be those in most need of financial support,” he said.

“In addition, all the evidence we have received indicates the unsuitability of DHPs in reaching difficult-to-access groups.

“Accordingly we call on the Scottish Government to develop a plan B to negate the bedroom tax for the coming financial year. If the bedroom tax is worthy of cancelling next month then it is worthy of cancelling this month too, and therefore the negation of the tax for 2014-15 should be paralleled by negation for 2013-14.

“Thus all bedroom tax arrears should be written off and, to avoid the moral hazard of allowing those who have struggled to pay to remain penalised, all payments made should be refunded.

“The Scottish Government has the powers, it has the money, we hope it has the will.

“If necessary we would be pleased to assist the Scottish Government in identifying all three, as will the Scottish Parliament, campaigning groups and the Scottish housing community.”