True cost of ‘spare room’ bill revealed

editorial image

Bedroom tax bail-out subsidies rocketed in East Dunbartonsire last year, with the area recording the highest percentage rise in Scotland.

But the apparent surge is said to have more to do with the way money is allocated than any sudden rise in the number of people who need support.

New figures appear to show a 25 per cent spike in the amount paid out in discretionary housing payments across Britain – but the Scottish figure is closer to 80 per cent.

And in East Dunbartonshire the cash spent soared to £350,000 from a mere £40,000 in 2013-14.

However putting the figure in context, the council’s director of finance and shared services, Ian Black, said: “The established DHP budget cap applied by the Department for Work and Pensions across the country meant there were insufficient funds to assist everyone affected by the RSRS (removal of spare room subsidy) in 2013/14.”

This meant people needing help specifically for this problem did not qualify, as their income would be greater than their expenditure, even when housing benefit cuts were taken into account.

Mr Black added: “Following an increased funding allocation from the Scottish Government and the removal of the DHP budget cap in Scotland, the process for those applying for assistance with the RSRS was changed in June 2014.

“This meant those applying were no longer subject to a financial assessment and received assistance for the full reduction regardless of their financial position.”

The bedroom tax has been seen as a major problem by authorities including North Lanarkshire Council, Scotland’s largest local authority landlord, where many families were already struggling to cope before its introduction.

The changes described by Ian Black are said to have improved the situation – but only while Scottish Government bail-out cash is available.