Council Leader urges Scottish Government to act to prevent evictions caused by new benefit changes
Renfrewshire Council Leader Mark Macmillan is urging the Scottish Government to legislate to prevent tenants being evicted for rent arrears caused by forthcoming cuts to housing benefit payments.
Councillor Macmillan believes ministers should use their devolved powers on housing legislation to protect council tenants across the country who will see their housing benefits reduced when the new bedroom tax is introduced in April.
“Many councils and welfare organisations have warned that the benefit changes being introduced by the UK Government will have a significant impact on some of the poorest people in our communities," he said.
“However, the Scottish Government has the opportunity to protect those tenants who are at risk of losing their tenancies because they are losing out on part of their housing benefit.
“Making use of the devolved authority on housing legislation would allow Ministers to introduce legislation which would prevent tenants being evicted because of rent arrears arising directly from the bedroom tax.
“Such legislation would help to protect the thousands across Scotland who will be affected by this benefit cut.”
Changes to housing benefit from April will mean that households with a total number of bedrooms classed as ‘more than they need’ will lose part of their weekly benefit.
Households occupying a property with one bedroom ‘extra’ will need to find an additional £11 per week, while those with two spare bedrooms will have to find an extra £20 per week on average.
The changes only apply to householders of working age.
In Renfrewshire alone, 1800 council tenants will be affected by the bedroom tax.
The combined impact of cuts in benefits as a result of the UK welfare reforms will take £22million out of the Renfrewshire economy.
“I know many people and organisations are concerned about the fairness and the practicality of these changes,” added Councillor Macmillan.
“The vast majority of council tenants in Renfrewshire won’t have an option to downsize their accommodation as most of our housing includes two or more bedrooms.
“Renfrewshire Council is doing all we can to help residents affected by welfare reform. We are currently assembling a 45-strong welfare reform team which will provide support on benefit, welfare and debt issues.
“In addition, we are urging people to contact us in advance of the changes being introduced to get advice tailored to their own circumstances.
“I hope the Scottish Government will act and legislate to give those people the support they need and deserve.”
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