MacDonald Calls on Westminster to scrap Bedroom Tax or give Scotland its fair share

Westminster policy is “wholly unfair and set to impoverish Falkirk district families”

In the week the Bedroom Tax is imposed on Scotland by the UK Government, Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald has called on the UK Government to ensure Scotland gets its fair share of funds to deal with both the human and financial impact.

Angus MacDonald claims a fair deal is essential if Scotland is to address the potentially devastating impact of the bedroom tax, which is set to impoverish some families and individuals throughout Falkirk district and beyond.

The Scottish Government is completely opposed to the bedroom tax, which will affect 16,000 families with children in Scotland, but if UK Ministers proceed with cuts then Scotland must get its fair share of Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) funding.

Despite both Scotland and London having the same number of households hit by the bedroom tax, the UK Government is set to award London with £56.5 million of DHP compared to only £10 million in Scotland.

Speaking in Grangemouth on the day the Bedroom Tax is introduced, Angus MacDonald said:

“The bedroom tax is a socially divisive measure that will increase social inequalities in Falkirk district and across Scotland. It’s a policy that the Scottish Government is totally against as it hits our most vulnerable citizens in these already challenging economic conditions.

“This is a policy devised in London on the basis of housing benefit increases and overcrowding. However, in inflation-adjusted terms, 93 per cent of the housing benefit increase is attributable to the situation in England whilst London has almost two and a half times the level of overcrowded households compared to Scotland.

“Scottish Government Ministers have consistently made that case to UK Government Ministers that Scotland is opposed to these cuts – if they proceed to impose their plans then Scotland must get its fair share of funds to deal with both the human and financial impact.

Angus continued;

“The small levels of Discretionary Housing Payment in Scotland is woefully inadequate and unfair to deal with the impact and scale of this policy.

“Civic Scotland is united in opposition to the bedroom tax and the Scottish Government has already taken action to strengthen the protection against eviction for rent arrears in advance of the introduction of the tax.  From 1 August 2012 we brought pre-action requirements for rent arrears into force to ensure that proceedings for eviction is always the last resort, and all SNP Councils have given an assurance not to evict anyone in bedroom tax arrears, unlike Falkirk Council who have twice refused to support an SNP motion backing such a move in Falkirk district.

“In contrast to Labour’s inaction, the SNP Government is also providing an extra £2.5 million to social landlords for advice services to ensure there is support on hand for people who will lose housing benefit due to the under occupancy measures and other housing benefit cuts being introduced by Westminster from April.”

“To help alleviate the pressures on struggling families and individuals, the Scottish Government has also undertaken a range of actions to mitigate the impact of UK Government welfare reform measures.  These include:

Council Tax Benefit
•       In addition to freezing the Council Tax for the sixth consecutive year the SNP Government has acted swiftly with local government partners to commit a total of £40 million in 2013/14 to ensure that around 560,000 people in Scotland currently receiving Council Tax Benefit are protected from the UK Government’s 10% cut in funding.

Scottish Welfare Fund
•       The Scottish Government is providing an extra £9.2 million for the Scottish Welfare Fund, giving a total of £33 million, and allowing the SNP to award an additional 5,600 Community Care Grants, and an additional 100,000 Crisis Grants for those groups who need it most.

•       The SNP Government is providing an extra £2.5 million to social landlords to ensure that there is advice on hand for people who will be affected by changes to housing benefit including the under occupancy measures.

Third Sector and Advice Services
•       The SNP Government is providing a funding package of £5.4 million for frontline advice and support services as they help people affected by the reforms.

Local Authorities
•       The Scottish Government is providing £230,000 to fund three LA-led Universal Credit (UC) pilots in Scotland.

Angus MacDonald continued:

“While the Scottish Government is taking action under the limited powers it has in the face of massive cuts from Westminster, the UK Government’s agenda is completely at odds with the values of the people of Scotland and the aspirations that the Scottish Government has for our nation. Only through independence can Scotland have the levers required to create a welfare system that is aligned to Scottish needs and values.”

In addition to the introduction of the Bedroom Tax, Westminster’s day of shame continues as catastrophic welfare changes are set to bite.

Calling for a system that reflects Scotland’s values Angus continued:

“The UK government has failed in protecting the most vulnerable on the day that Westminster’s ‘catastrophic’ welfare changes are implemented.

The changes to the welfare system will see:

• The ‘Bedroom Tax’ come into force, with 105,000 households across Scotland losing an average £600 a year.

• Working age benefits rises will be capped to one per cent for the next three years reducing the total income of Scottish households by around £210 million by 2014-15.

• Child benefit will be frozen for the third year in a row, seeing, cumulatively, between 2011-12 and 2015-16, a family with two children receiving over £1,100 less than they would had Child Benefit been uprated by RPI inflation.

• Scotland’s council tax budget will be cut by 10% but Scottish households have been protected by the Scottish Government and COSLA plugging the £40 million funding gap.

• The social fund will be abolished but the £33million Scottish Welfare Fund will be set up to benefit an extra 100,000 vulnerable Scots.

Westminster’s welfare reform programme – encompassing the cuts in the UK Budget, autumn statement and spending review – comes to a total of £4.5billion.

Slamming the UK Government for failing the young, poor, disadvantaged and elderly, Angus MacDonald MSP said:

“The Westminster system is wrongly persistent in believing that these are the groups who should bear the brunt of their austerity agenda.

“From introducing the ‘bedroom tax’ to freezing child benefit, it is little wonder that people in Scotland simply do not have faith in the current Westminster operated welfare system.

“We need a system that reflects Scotland’s values – a system that ensures fair and decent support for those that need it most, protecting the vulnerable and supporting households rather than seeing them be subjected to aggressive cuts from Westminster.

“A fairer welfare system for Scotland can only be achieved with independence and control over all welfare policies so that we can devise policies for the benefit of the people of Scotland.

“A recent YouGov poll found that 52% of respondents thought that the Scottish Government should be responsible for all tax and spending decisions in Scotland – including oil and gas tax revenue, with 35% supporting Westminster control.

"Scotland needs a Yes vote on 18th September 2014 to enable us to invest our abundant resources in building the fairer and more prosperous Scotland that we all want to see."

Copyright © Angus MacDonald MSP 2017

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