Dundee’s constituency MSPs Shona Robison and Joe FitzPatrick have set-up an advice surgery at the Brooksbank Centre tomorrow [Tuesday 2nd April] to offer advice and support to those affected by the ‘Bedroom Tax’ — and many of the appointments have already been taken up.
Earlier in the day, the Scottish Government’s Housing Minister Margaret Burgess will be in Dundee to attend a meeting organised by Shona Robison and Joe FitzPatrick to brief the city’s advice sector on the impact of the bedroom tax and the UK Government’s welfare reforms.
Before her election as an MSP Ms Burgess was the Manager of a CAB, and while in the city, the Minister will also meet with local politicians and councillors.
Dundee City Council has led the way in protecting tenants from the UK Government’s welfare reforms by approving a policy which specifically rules out eviction for bedroom tax arrears where the tenant has made reasonable efforts to pay their rent despite reductions in housing benefits.
Dundee Labour Councillors voted against the policy and Labour Councils have refused to give any commitment against the use of eviction for bedroom tax arrears. At Westminster, Labour has made it plain they will not scrap the bedroom tax.
Dundee City West MSP Joe FitzPatrick said: “We are still calling on the UK Government to see sense and axe the bedroom tax which may have come into operation on 1st April but will be no April Fool’s joke and will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in our society and penalise many households through no fault of their own.
“Those households deemed by the UK Government to have one extra bedroom will have their housing benefit cut by 14% and those with two or more ‘extra’ bedrooms will incur a 25% cut.
“When the UK Government’s 1% cap on the annual increase in benefits and rising household bills are both taken into account, it is clear that the Bedroom Tax will cause real hardship for those families affected by it. The risk is that households will be unable to make up their rent payments and will accrue greater and greater rent arrears, and be forced deeper into debt.”
Shona Robison, MSP for Dundee City East said: “The Scottish Government has announced measures to help mitigate the impact of the UK Government’s damaging welfare reforms, topping up with £9 million the Social fund which will now be administered by Scotland’s local councils.
“Estimates by the Scottish Poverty Forum put the total losses to Dundee of the UK Government’s welfare reforms at a staggering £71 million over 2010-2015.
“The total figure for Scotland is around £4.5 billion. That’s money lost to the income of ordinary people in Scotland.
“At the moment, Scotland’s welfare system is still controlled from London by the Westminster Government.
“Next year in the 2014 referendum on independence, the people of Scotland will have the opportunity to choose a different path from Westminster’s relentless cuts agenda and its attacks on the most vulnerable in society.
“We will be using the results of our survey to keep up the pressure on the UK Government to axe this discriminatory tax.”
Cllr John Alexander, Dundee City Council’s Housing Convenor said: “Dundee City Council has estimated that over 3,300 households in the city will be affected with the total cost for tenants alone amounting to £2.1 million a year. 583 of those households will be hit by the larger cut of 25%, which will amount to an annual cost to them of £1,044 per year, or £20.07 per week.
“As well as our commitment on non-eviction, the Council has been writing out to tenants who will be affected and visiting them to explain what the Bedroom Tax will mean to them and to ensure that they are aware of the help that is available.
“We will make it easier for Council tenants to move to smaller properties, should they wish to do so and where these exist. We have changed our Allocations Policy so that those being penalised by the Bedroom Tax and who want to downsize are given extra points to help improve their prospects.”
An Dundee online survey and doorstep campaign on the issue organised by the SNP have been strongly supported in the city.