EDINBURGH COUNCIL AGREE TO COVER BEDROOM TAX FOR ALL TENANTS

The City of Edinburgh Council have agreed to pay all tenants hit by the bedroom tax the money they need to cover the tax in full, without the need for means-testing or filling in forms.

Lothian Anti Bedroom Tax Federation delegates addressed the full Council meeting on 26 June. Following the deputation, councillors unanimously agreed a motion from the Greens Steve Burgess that “all qualifying Bedroom tax (under occupancy) Discretionary Housing Payment applications are appropriately backdated and paid in full without the need for a financial assessment.”

This means no-one in Edinburgh needs to pay the bedroom tax shortfall in their Housing Benefit – it will all be covered by the Council paying Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). “Any tenants still being affected by the Bedroom tax should apply to the Council for a Discretionary Housing Payment right away,” say the Lothian Anti Bedroom Tax Federation. “This DHP should be paid on the basis you need it to cover Bedroom tax. The Council have now agreed you do not need to fill in any forms about your income and expenditure or savings or anything like that.”

PAY UP ON BACKDATING”, DEMAND CAMPAIGNERS

Now anti bedroom tax campaigners are pressing for the Council to automatically pay Discretionary Housing Payment backdated to 1st April 2013, when the Bedroom tax started. The Council have called on officials to prepare a report on this, which will go to the Council Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee meeting on 5th August. “We call on local people opposed to the unjust Bedroom tax to attend this meeting to make sure the councillors finally effectively abolish the Bedroom tax in Edinburgh, “ say the Lothian Federation. The meeting is due to be held at 10am at the Council Chambers on the High Street.

The Lothian Anti Bedroom Tax Federation delegation emphasised to the councillors that the Bedroom tax was hitting tenants who often had multiple problems with ill-health, disabilities, and problems and cuts to their disability benefits. 80% of households in Scotland hit by the Bedroom tax contain someone with disabilities. The delegation also made it clear that any attempt to collect the Bedroom tax was doomed.

BEDROOM TAX UNWORKABLE

“People power has made the Bedroom tax unworkable in Scotland,” say the Anti Bedroom Tax Federation. “Thousands can't and won't pay – and the authorities realised that the level of opposition was such that any attempt at Bedroom tax evictions would have resulted in major disturbances. Now the Bedroom tax is effectively dead in Scotland and people need no longer fear for their homes due to this unjust law.” The City of Edinburgh Council has a no evictions policy for tenants in arrears solely due to Bedroom tax, as long as the tenant stays in contact with the council.

Anti Bedroom Tax protest Edinburgh March 2013Anti Bedroom Tax protest Edinburgh March 2013

The Scottish Government has put aside sufficient funds to cover all tenants' Bedroom Tax in Scotland. However Councils claim there has been a delay in this money actually being paid to them. At the meeting on 26th June Council leader Andrew Burns revealed a letter he had just received from the Scottish and Westminster governments confirming that there were now no legal obstacles to the effects of the Bedroom tax being fully mitigated in Scotland, that is everyone's Bedroom tax can now be covered by Discretionary Housing Payments. The letter, signed by David Mundell, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Scotland, Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform and Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister of Scotland confirms councils can spend funds on DHP immediately, without having to wait for the required legislation to formally lift the cap on DHP.

Meanwhile in Glasgow on the same day the Scottish Anti Bedroom Tax Federation were lobbying Glasgow City Council, demanding answers on the payment of Discretionary Housing Payment.

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EDINBURGH COALITION AGAINST POVERTY is based at the Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh (ACE), an open campaign space & infoshop providing resources and solidarity. Resources available include free computer/internet access, cheap copying, free leaflets, books, pamphlets and mags for sale, and a library. Every Tuesday from 12 to 3pm support and solidarity is available for benefits, debt hassles, housing and other problems. Please contact us at Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty c/o ACE, 17 West Montgomery Place, Edinburgh EH7 5HA, 0131 557 6242 or ecap@lists.riseup.net. We invite you to join our solidarity phone tree and get involved. ACE is also open at other times for particular events (but the support and solidarity sessions are only on Tuesday).