The Scottish National Party (SNP) has called on Scottish Labour to confirm their position on a report which recommends that ‘bedroom tax’ arrears be written off for victims of the controversial policy in Scotland.
According to the SNP, Labour has scored a ‘major own goal’ in refusing to commit to writing off ‘bedroom tax’ arrears and refunding households affected by the coalition government’s hated housing policy.
Under changes introduced by the Tory-led coalition government in 2013, social housing tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit, and who are deemed to be under-occupying their home, must contribute toward their rent through a deduction in the amount of Housing Benefit they are entitled to claim.
The level of the deduction is determined by the number of ‘spare bedrooms’ in their social home – 14% deduction in Housing Benefit for one spare room or 25% for two or more.
Labour’s Shadow Minister of State for Employment, Stephen Timms MP, said that the idea of writing off ‘bedroom tax’ arrears and offering refunds to those affected was a ‘good slogan’. He then went on to say that a future UK Labour government would not make the commitment, during a Scottish Affairs Committee meeting (see video below).
Ten Scottish Labour MPs failed to vote on their own party’s motion tabled in the House of Commons last year, calling on the government to scrap the ‘bedroom tax’ with immediate effect. The SNP say that this shows that Scottish Labour ‘have a poor track record on the bedroom tax’. The Tory-led coalition government defeated Labour’s motion by just 26 votes.
SNP spokesperson for Work and Pensions Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:
“This was a major own goal for Labour as it reveals they were not committed to compensating those affected by the Bedroom Tax and writing off the debts.
“The comments also highlight how Labour will say one thing in Westminster and something completely different in Holyrood.
“The Bedroom Tax is a deeply unfair policy which will be scrapped in an independent Scotland. It is a shame that Labour MPs did not feel so strongly on November 12 last year at their own debate in the House of Commons when there was a real opportunity to abolish this punitive tax. 47 Labour members didn’t even bother to turn up including – shamefully – 10 Scottish Labour MPs.
“In contrast the SNP government is doing all it can to help mitigate the impact of this divisive tax and have pledged that funding for Discretionary Housing Payments will continue next year with another £20 million to help victims of Westminster’s Bedroom Tax.
“One of the most significant gains of independence is that Scotland will have full control over its welfare system. That means only with a Yes vote will we finally be able to get rid of the unjust Bedroom Tax and have a welfare state that reflects the views and votes of the people of Scotland.”
Labour has pledged to scrap the ‘bedroom tax’ if the party wins an overall majority in the 2015 general election.
Article updated 12 May 2014