Government 'could stop tax evictions'

THE Scottish Government should use devolved powers to protect tenants from eviction forced by controversial benefit changes.

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The leader of Renfrewshire Council, Mark Macmillan claims thousands of people will be made homeless when the UK Govern-ment makes sweeping changes to housing benefit.

But Mr Macmillan believes the Scottish Government has the power to protect people facing what he calls a looming housing crisis.

He said: "Many councils and welfare organisations have warned that the benefit changes being introduced by the UK Government will have a significant impact on some of the poorest people.

"However the Scottish Government has the opportunity to protect those tenants who are at risk of losing their tenancies because they are losing out on part of their housing benefit.

"Making use of the devolved authority on housing legislation would allow Scottish Ministers to introduce legislation which would prevent tenants being evicted because of rent arrears arising directly from the bedroom tax."

Changes to housing benefit from April will mean that households with a total number of bedrooms classed as more than they need will lose part of their weekly benefit.

Households with one bedroom extra will need to find an additional £11 a week, while those with two spare bedrooms will have to find an extra £20 per week on average, claim anti-cuts campaigners.

The changes only apply to householders of working age.

Mr Macmillan added: "Renfrewshire Council is doing all it can to help residents affected by welfare reform.

"It is currently assembling a 45-strong welfare reform team which will provide support on benefit, wel-fare and debt issues.

"In addition, it is urging people to contact it in advance of the changes being intro-duced to get advice tailored to their own circumstances.

"But I hope the Scottish Government will act and legislate to give those people the support they need and deserve."

A Scottish Govern-ment spokeswoman said they would not be pursuing Mr Mac-millan's idea.

She said: "We are very sympathetic to the difficulties that some tenants will find them-selves in as a result of the introduction of the bedroom tax.

"However, our main concern with this proposal is that it would allow tenants to get into debt – something we would not advocate or encourage.

"It is completely unacceptable that vulnerable groups and hard-working people should bear the brunt of the bedroom tax.

"Not only are West-minster's drastic changes to the welfare system making life tougher for ordinary families, they are also making the struggle to make ends meet that bit more difficult in these tough financial times."

ewan.fergus@ eveningtimes.co.uk

Local government

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