In a report published Friday 21st of March, Parliament’s Scottish Affairs Committee says the Scottish Government’s plan to negate the future effects of the bedroom tax in Scotland is inadequate, and further that the route they have identified - using Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) – is flawed.
The Committee has taken evidence in Scotland and Westminster on the impacts of the bedroom tax but also on the best and most effective ways of mitigating those effects.
The Committee reiterates its call for the Scottish Government to to meet all the bedroom tax charges for Scottish tenants, write off all the arrears, and refund all the payments that have been made, as the only fair and workable way forward.
"The bedroom tax remains cruel and unfair and we remain in favour of its abolition. As long as it remains in place we continue to be strongly in favour of mitigating the effect of the tax by the changes we have already proposed.
We welcome the Scottish Government’s belated decision to budget sufficiently to negate the entire effect of the tax in Scotland for 2014/15 but believe the route they have identified, of extending Discretionary Housing Payments, is flawed.
While we recognise the Scottish Government’s political desire to enter a conflict of powers, this is a battle which it is highly unlikely to win and where the casualties will be those in most need of financial support.
In addition, all the evidence we have received indicates the unsuitability of DHPs in reaching difficult-to-access groups.
Accordingly we call on the Scottish Government to develop a Plan B to negate the bedroom tax for the coming financial year. If the bedroom tax is worthy of cancelling next month then it is worthy of cancelling this month too, and therefore the negation of the tax for 2014/15 should be paralleled by negation for 2013/14.
Thus all bedroom tax arrears should be written off and, to avoid the moral hazard of allowing those who have struggled to pay to remain penalised, all payments made should be refunded.
The Scottish Government has the powers; it has the money; we hope it has the will.
If necessary we would be pleased to assist the Scottish Government in identifying all three, as will the Scottish Parliament, campaigning groups and the Scottish housing community."