L-R: Cllr John Alexander, Shona, Margaret Burgess, Joe, Cllr Kevin Cordell (Depute Housing Convenor) front – Ginny Lawson, Money Advice, Brooksbank Centre.
Dundee’s constituency MSPs Shona Robison and Joe FitzPatrick invited the Scottish Government’s Housing & Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess to a discussion event on the bedroom tax with workers and volunteers from the advice and support sector.
The event, which took place today [2nd April], in the Brooksbank Centre, was well-attended by those in the front-line of services in the voluntary sector, the local authority and housing associations in the city.
Before her election as an MSP Ms Burgess was the Manager of a Citizens’ Advice Bureau, and briefed the audience on ongoing discussion with the UK Government on the welfare reforms.
She said the UK Government has promised to review the impact of the bedroom tax after three months and Ms Burgess said that the Scottish Government planned to gather case studies and evidence of the social dislocation it is expected to cause in a further attempt to persuade the UK Government to have the tax scrapped.
An independent Scotland governed by the SNP, she said, would have the full powers needed to create a fairer social welfare system more suited to the needs of a population of 5.5 million. The SNP has already committed to repeal the bedroom tax as part of its welfare policy if elected to govern Scotland after a Yes vote.
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.
Speaking at the event, Cllr John Alexander, Dundee City Council’s Housing Convenor, promised the Council would listen to suggestions from those affected by the welfare changes and those working with tenants and social landlords to ensure that the Council was doing all it can to help people.
Dundee City West MSP Joe FitzPatrick said: “We oppose this unfair tax and will work with Dundee City Council and the Scottish Government to do our best to mitigate its effects.”
Shona Robison, MSP for Dundee City East said: “The Scottish Government is working hard to help mitigate the impact of the bedroom tax.
“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.”
The city MSPs had organised special one-to-one surgeries for constituents affected by the bedroom tax and these had been heavily over-subscribed so that further bedroom-tax surgeries are planned in the near-future.
PICTURE: Before the meeting, L-R: Cllr John Alexander, Shona, Margaret Burgess, Joe, Cllr Kevin Cordell (Depute Housing Convenor) front – Ginny Lawson, Money Advice, Brooksbank Centre.