Fife Council has approved a motion calling on the Scottish Government to work in partnership with local councils and make available £50 million available this year to protect social landlords from bankruptcy and to mitigate all effects of the bedroom tax in Scotland.
Council Deputy leader David Ross said that Fife Council has put more resources into offsetting the worst impacts of the bedroom tax than most councils but that this is still not enough. He said; “We have topped up the discretionary funding to the maximum that we are legally allowed to do and we have ensured that there is funding going into both the advice services and independent legal services to support individuals but the truth is this is such a bad piece of legislation the only answer is to get rid of it. Even if every person deemed to have an additional bedroom was in a position to move to a smaller property the fact is there are not the properties available to move to. Councils do not have the houses available and therefore what we have is poor people and families being made even poorer by this unworkable piece of legislation that is an attack on people for no other reason than they are poor”.
Following on from the motion being agreed Fife Council leader Alex Rowley has written to Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth, John Swinney asking him to consider supporting the petition and to work with local councils to mitigate the impact of the bedroom tax in Scotland. In the letter Mr Rowley said; “We understand that your own party has made a commitment to abolish the bedroom tax if there is a yes vote in next year’s referendum and whilst this is welcome, it firstly needs a yes vote to be successful and even then it is unlikely to happen before late 2016 or the 2017 budget. Likewise my own party has at UK level said they will abolish the bedroom tax but this means they would have to win the 2015 election and then it is unlikely to happen till 2016.
“My point is that this is 2013 and the people who are suffering the impact of the bedroom tax now cannot wait till 2016 and that is why Fife Council feels something needs to be done now.
“We are committed to working with the Scottish Government on this issue and would suggest that the example of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme should be used to explore whether a similar partnership approach between local and the Scottish Government can be used to pool resources and mitigate all the effects of the bedroom tax as soon as possible and certainly at the latest in the 2014 budgets.
“As a local councillor I see every day the impact of this legislation on people who are already struggling to survive on low incomes, the worry and the deep sense of desperation. That is why I believe that in Scotland we must remove this attack on the poorest people now if we can, and then unite and campaign for this inhumane legislation to be removed completely.
“It was noted at the Council meeting that you have made £20 million available to support people affected by the bedroom tax and this was welcomed. I would ask that you look to make more available and to work with local government to take the steps necessary to mitigate all effects of the bedroom tax in Scotland”.
Fife Labour will continue to push for action now to remove the threat of the bedroom tax from Fife tenants and hopes to work with all political parties and community groups to achieve this goal.
Motion to Fife Council
Fife council reaffirms its view that the under occupation rule or ‘Bedroom Tax’ as it is more commonly known is both unfair and unjust causing widespread worry and financial hardship for social housing tenants in Fife and restates its view that the ‘Bedroom Tax’ is unworkable.
Fife Council also recognises the difficult task for Council staff in implementing the ‘Bedroom Tax’ and affirms our total support for those staff carrying out the difficult work that they are being asked to do.
Fife Council notes the initial assessment of how under occupation or bedroom tax would affect Fife was as follows:- Fife Council Properties – 4,952 based on 4,105 properties with 1 excess bedroom and 847 properties with 2 excess bedrooms. And, for Housing Associations – 1,309 properties based on 1,045 with 1 excess bedroom and 264 properties with 2 excess bedrooms. This gives a combined total of 6,261 social housing tenants in Fife identified to be impacted by under occupation.
Fife Council notes that the No2BedroomTax Campaign has submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament. The petition is as follows: “Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to make approximately £50 million available to mitigate all effects of the bedroom tax in Scotland.
“Shelter Scotland has previously called for the Scottish Government to make up to £50million available this year to protect social landlords from bankruptcy. This petition reiterates Shelter Scotland’s demands.
“By providing this finance the Scottish Government will be protecting social landlords from the threat of bankruptcy while ensuring that those who are eligible to pay the Under-Occupancy penalty will not have to face the prospect of insurmountable debt and eviction”.
Fife Council calls on all MSPs in the Scottish Parliament to support this petition and agrees to work with the Scottish Government to find a way of mitigating all effects of the bedroom tax for Fife tenants.
Fife Council agrees to continue to make the strongest possible representations to the Westminster Government making the case for the ‘Bedroom Tax’ to be abolished.
Moved Alex Rowley
Seconded Judy Hamilton
Photo shows Alex Rowley and David Ross at the Fife Council meeting last week.