In Fife the bedroom tax will affect over 6,300 households in receipt of housing benefit. Many will have to find monies from their already low incomes to pay for bedrooms the government deem they don’t need. This will hit hard on disabled people, separated parents with children who spend time with them and many people who quite simply cannot get another house that is smaller.
Fife Council took steps today to agree a way forward to support people who run into difficulty with this unfair and unworkable tax and we have said that as long as people who are experiencing difficulties get in touch and work with us then there will be no one in Fife left without a roof over their head as a result of the bedroom tax.
Councillors and Labour Party activists were campaigning across Fife at the weekend and even in the bitter cold weather people were stopping to sign the petition and express their concern at this new tax being imposed on the poorest and weakest in our society.
Fife Council leader Alex Rowley said; “As a Council we are doing everything within the powers we have to minimise the impact of this tax on the people affected and I would urge the Scottish Government to stop playing their separatist political games with peoples welfare and join with councils across Scotland in the call for the UK Government to scrap the tax, and in the meantime to make resources available to Councils and Housing Associations to help tenants most at risk across Fife and Scotland”.
The motion passed today at the Fife Council Executive is below.
NOTICE OF MOTION – In terms of Standing Order No. 30, the following notice of motion has been submitted
1.1 That from 1st April nearly 5,000 council tenants and 1,300 housing association tenants in Fife will be adversely affected by the under-occupation provisions of Welfare Reform – the so-called ‘Bedroom Tax’.
1.2 That Fife Council is concerned that the bedroom tax will lead to increased rent arrears, and considers that this represents a significant financial risk to the Housing Revenue Account.
1.3 That the Council has been making strenuous efforts to contact those tenants likely to be affected and to investigate all legal means of mitigating the impact of these measures.
1.4 That the Council has included a sum of £5.4m in its budget to deal with the impact of Welfare Reform.
1.5 That all tenants should continue to pay their rent but should contact the Council as soon as possible if they are in danger of falling into arrears.
2.1 An increase in resources available to support the application of the Discretionary Housing Fund to the maximum level allowed (150%) bringing the Fund in Fife up to a total of £1.087m, funded from the resources previously built in to the council budget to deal with the impact of Welfare Benefit Reform.
2.2 That for any tenant facing financial difficulties as a direct result of the ‘Bedroom Tax’ provided they have contacted the Council to discuss their financial position, are doing all they reasonably can to avoid falling into or escalating arrears, and where applicable have entered into an agreed financial arrangement, Fife Council will use all legitimate means of supporting tenants to ensure the collection of rent but will not pursue eviction measures.
2.3 That outstanding arrears will not prevent a transfer for any tenants wishing to transfer to a smaller property as a way of mitigating the impact of the ‘Bedroom Tax’.
2.4 That tenants who do not wish to accept the offer of a property that would result in under occupation and financial hardship under the Welfare Reform provisions will not be suspended from waiting or transfer lists under the current allocation policies.
3 Calls on:
The UK Government
3.1 To reverse the under-occupation provisions of Welfare Reform or failing this to further expand the categories for exemption from these provisions.
The Scottish Government
3.2 To continue to use its devolved powers under housing and social welfare legislation and in consultation with local authorise and other social housing providers, to mitigate the impacts of Welfare Reform and in particular the ‘Bedroom Tax’.
3.3 Specifically to further supplement the Discretionary Housing Fund.