The Bedroom Tax is one of the worst pieces of welfare reform in the last 30 years. Not only is it targeting the poorest and most vulnerable in society, it doesn’t have in place the solution which its creators claim is its intention (i.e. a supply of smaller properties for claimants to move to), it could even have a perverse effect on the Housing Benefit budget, as people move to smaller homes in the Private Sector, which are actually more expensive than the larger social housing properties they leave.
In Scotland, Housing is devolved. The Scottish Government could pass legislation stopping evictions due to Bedroom Tax arrears, and Mike Daily, of the Govan Law Centre has petitioned the parliament to do just that. However, despite Scottish Labour pressure, the SNP have decided that it’s not necessary to protect Scots like that.
Instead, they have instructed their councillors to institute a policy which comes close, but which is not quite a “No Eviction” one. Under some circumstances, you can still be evicted from a council house in Dundee, if you have arrears, but don’t want to move. You might not want to move for a host of reasons – needing to be close to friends and family for support, for instance, or not wishing to disrupt education for youngsters. However, if the Director of Housing thinks that unreasonable – you’re out!
Labour run Fife Council, however, is more enlightened. There, the council has set aside over £5m of its own money to deal with the fallout from welfare reforms, and have promised not to evict tenants who let them know they are experiencing problems due to the Bedroom Tax. Unlike SNP councils, they are calling on the Scottish Government to help protect all Fifers who will be hit. Two other Labour councils are set to implement measures to protect tenants that go much further than the SNP spin.
The cost across Scotland of the Bedroom tax is estimated by Shelter Scotland to be £50m, and they too believe the correct response is for Scottish Ministers to provide this. However, the SNP have refused, instead preferring to play politics, like putting down motions they know will fail due to standing orders, simply in order to embarrass Labour councils. However, the Scottish Government can afford to do this. Last year, there was an under spend of £72m. Such things are simply unacceptable at time like these – more so when Scots are under pressure.
However, the politicking gets worse. The Government says that if you voted for an SNP council, you will get protection – if you didn’t, well tough. If you vote for independence, however, come 2016, they’ll get rid of the Bedroom Tax. Appalling given that they can do something now – they just choose not to do so. And just how many people will have been evicted between now and 2016? To coin a phrase, the SNP will have blood on their hands.