Fife Council leader Alex Rowley has said this week that the council will not contest the decision of the Tribunal which found in favour of four appellants who said they should not be charged bedroom tax.
Mr Rowley said that in one of the successful appeals it was clear the council had mis-interpreted the guidance and any other tenants in a similar situation would now be exempt. The second appeal relates to a unique set of circumstances where a property had been converted and historic use of the rooms was deemed a determining factor. The Council will view each similar case based on its merits. On the other two successful appeals which could have implications for up to 2000 tenants in Fife affected by the bedroom tax, the council leader said a report outlining the issues and options would be brought before a Council executive meeting in the next month.
He said; “It is clear that the judgment from the Tribunal Judge identifies that the definition of a bedroom is a room over 70 sq feet as defined in the Housing Scotland Act 1987. Whilst the UK Government have brought forward the bedroom tax legislation it does not define what a bedroom is and we therefore have this legal opinion based on the 1987 Act stating that any room below 70 sq feet is not eligible for bedroom tax. I have been told that up to 2000 properties could be removed on this basis but have also been given legal and financial advice which suggests this is not clear cut. I have therefore asked that a report be brought to committee outlining the issues and options for the council and its tenants and an informed decision can then be taken as to how to move forward with this specific issue”.
The Council leader has also tabled a motion at this week’s Council meeting supporting the No2Bedroom Tax petition which has been lodged in the Scottish Parliament and is calling on the Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to make £50 million available to mitigate all effects of the bedroom tax.
Addressing a public meeting in Fife this weekend Mr Rowley said; “It is both shocking and inhumane that the UK government would seek to deal with the deficit by introducing a tax that is specifically targeted at those with the lowest incomes in our communities. That David Cameron and his government of millionaires would come up with an idea based on taxing the poor and making their situation even worse is so grotesque it should cause public outrage and should be scrapped.
He continued; “The welfare reforms also had an impact on council tax and the poorest were going to be liable to pay an increase but the Scottish government and local councils agreed a deal which saw councils putting in £17 million alongside £23 million from the Scottish government to remove any increase on Scotland’s poorest. The No2Bedroom Tax petition is calling for similar action from the Scottish government and in supporting this I am arguing that local authorities can also work in partnership to remove this inhumane attack on Scotland poorest and do so now whilst we continue to put the pressure on the UK government to abolish it altogether.
“I am also reiterating the point that the bedroom tax is not workable as councils simply do not have the smaller houses to rehouse people. Indeed we now know that there has been a shift towards small private sector properties and this is actually driving up the housing benefit bill and costing even more. The case against this tax is overwhelming and we must continue to fight it but in the meantime if there is a will to do so we can remove this threat that is hanging over so many tenants in Scotland and we can do so now”.