'Bedroom tax' should be abolished, say MSPs

THE 'bedroom tax' is inhumane and the UK Government should abolish it or give Holy-rood the power to scrap it north of the border.

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The Bedroom Tax has met with fierce protests
The Bedroom Tax has met with fierce protests

The claim came from MSPs on the Scottish Parliament Welfare Reform Committee which has produced its interim report into the occupancy charge, branding it "iniquitous" and saying it could cost more than it saves.

The MSPs, four SNP, two Labour and one Conservative, concluded it was "bad law" impacting on the most vulnerable groups in society.

Having spent months taking evidence from tenants affected by the charge, housing associations, councils, and Department of Work and Pensions officials, the report states the only way to deal with the tax is to abolish it.

However it notes that the power over welfare is reserved to Westminster, and calls on the UK Government to abolish it or devolve those powers to the Scottish Parliament.

The report recounts evidence it heard from people forced to take a cut in housing benefit if they have one or more spare bedrooms.

Anne Bradley, from Glas-gow, told the committee: "I read an article in the Evening Times about the bedroom tax and I believed then as I do now that the tax is a breach of everyone's human rights and should be dumped."

She was told she would have to find £47.64 a month and asked her landlord, Queens Cross Housing Association, if she could move to a smaller flat, but was told there were none available in her area.

The committee found there were 9645 one-bedroom lettings in 2011-13 across the country but there were almost 30,000 people hit by the bedroom tax who need a one bedroom home. In Glasgow, the figure was almost 3000 one-bed lets, but more than 12,000 hit by the tax.

Committee convener Michael McMahon said it undoes work to improve communities.

He added: "The bedroom tax remains bad law. Smaller properties are not available because we spent years developing our housing stock to offer homes people could grow their families in, so they could set down roots and establish communities.

"The reality for many is they cannot pay and they cannot move."

The committee said that although the bedroom tax will reduce the UK housing benefit budget, it means house-holders, housing associations, councils and the Scottish Government are bearing new costs, which it believes could be more than the government is saving.

It said the solution is for the UK Government to abolish it.

stewart.paterson@eveningtimes.co.uk

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