Bedroom tax set to snare hundreds

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HUNDREDS of people in East Dunbartonshire are going to be caught in an “unfair” trap sprung by the ‘bedroom tax’, it has been claimed.

The biggest welfare shake-up in generations is underway and it is feared many local people will be affected.

One of the most controversial changes means that anyone of working age who rents a home from a local authority, housing association or registered social landlord which is deemed ‘too big’ for them will have their housing benefit cut.

New rules – which kicked in on Monday – allow one bedroom for each person or couple living as part of the household.

Tenants who have one extra bedroom face a 14 per cent cut in their housing benefit – two or more extra bedrooms and you face a 25 per 
cent reduction.

Hillhead Housing Association has an estimated 127 tenants who will be affected, but the association has no vacant one-bedroom properties for them to relocate to – meaning they will lose out.

It’s a similar situation for some East Dunbartonshire Council tenants.

Council leader Rhondda Geekie said: “The problem with the bedroom tax is that people do not have the choice to move to a smaller house as we do not have any either.

“People are then expected to find extra money to top up the benefit to pay their rent.

“The problem will get worse when the benefit to pay the rent goes directly to the tenant, who is already struggling with reduced money.

“We are being asked whether we can promise not to evict if people get into arrears, but that does not solve the problem of debt building up and less income going into the housing account, which pays for repairs and services.

“Our plea is that people come to us whenever they have a problem rather than letting debt mount up, so we can do all we can to help them.

“Do not ignore letters advising of changes. Go along to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau or the council, where people can give advice and help with forms.”

Other changes include the council administering the Scottish Welfare Fund, a scheme set up to replace the social fund community care grants and crisis loans previously managed by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP Fiona McLeod has welcomed £33million of funding from the Scottish Government to provide grants to people left vulnerable by Westminster welfare reforms.

East Dunbartonshire Council has been allocated £336,815 to help people in financial hardship and in need of 
short-term help.

Ms McLeod said: “It is absolutely imperative that vulnerable people in Scotland are protected and cared for during these tough economic times.

“Westminster has responded to this recession by imposing drastic welfare cuts which will affect some of our most vulnerable groups, including the elderly, the disabled and 
the unemployed.”

The MSP was critical of MP Jo Swinson for backing the ‘bedroom tax’.

But Ms Swinson insists: “There are a number of measures to protect disabled people, families with severely disabled children and those who need overnight care.”

Information is available from the council website – www.eastdunbarton.gov.uk/welfarereform, the Customer Contact Centre on 0300 123 4510 and community hubs in Kirkintilloch and Bishopbriggs.