COMMONS

MPs in Glenrothes to investigate impact of 'Bedroom Tax'

18 October 2013

At 11am on Friday 18 October the Scottish Affairs Committee will hold a special evidence session in the Fife Council Buildings in Glenrothes.

They will ask local councillors, officials and housing associations about the impact of the “bedroom tax” – one of the Government’s proposed changes to housing benefit – in the local area.

Witnesses

Friday 18 October

At 11am in Conference Room 2, Fife House, Glenrothes.

  • Cllr David Ross Deputy Leader, Fife Council
  • Louise Sutherland, Housing manager, Fife Council
  • Eileen Rowand, Head of Revenue and Exchequer Services, Fife Council
  • Graham Sutherland, Fife Law Centre

At approx midday

  • Norma Philpott, Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Norah Smith, Kingdom Housing Association
  • Pauline Buchan, Cottage Family Centre
  • Craig Stirratt, Fife Housing Association

Inquiry

The Committee has been inquiring into the effect of the proposals - which include reducing the amount of housing benefit paid to people with a bedroom classified as "spare" – on households and families, and on the housing market.

Changes to the housing benefit system announced by the Government include the introduction of the Housing Benefit Cap or “bedroom tax” which means a reduction in benefit for anyone with a "spare" bedroom; changes to how the rate of housing benefit is set; changes to the way the Local Housing Allowance is set; increasing non-dependent deductions and reforms to social housing.

It has been estimated that the bedroom tax will affect 105,000 households in Scotland, 79% of which “under-occupy” by one bedroom and so will likely have their housing benefit reduced by 14% of their eligible rent, and 21% of which “under-occupy” by two bedrooms or more and so will likely have their housing benefit reduced by 25%. Of these 105,000 households, 79% have at least one adult with a recognised disability.

Housing policy

In Scotland, housing policy is devolved but control over benefits, including housing benefit, is not. Some of the key questions the inquiry is looking at are: the impact of the housing benefit reforms in  Scotland;  whether the housing benefit policy is coherent and enables access to homes in Scotland; what powers the Scottish Government, Councils, social landlords and others have to mitigate the impact of the reforms, and whether these are being used effectively; whether benefit reform is in danger of driving private landlords out of the low income rental market, thereby increasing shortages of rented accommodation.

The Committee has been gathering evidence from all the affected parties on what impact the reforms will have on households and families in Scotland, and also what powers the Scottish Government, local authorities, social landlords & others have to mitigate these impacts and how effectively they are being used. It is now taking evidence in Glenrothes to get a first hand account of these issues from the local people involved. The meeting is open to the public and all are welcome to attend.

Committee Chair

Ian Davidson MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"The full extent of the impact of these reforms, and especially the significant reduction in help with rent, has yet to be felt in Scotland but we are concerned that there will be a negative impact on families and individuals who are, by definition, already struggling to make ends meet. We want to hear from the people who will be affected as to what difference this will make to them and the cash they have to live on. We are also concerned about what we have heard about the impact this will have on the supply and cost of rented accommodation, which so many people rely on.

 

“There seems to be something arbitrary about a blanket cut based on whether you have a spare room or not. We want to know what can be done in Scotland to assess people’s circumstances and mitigate the effects on a more individual basis - especially when you consider that the vast majority of the households that will be affected include a disabled person.

 

“What powers are already available in Scotland to deflect the impact of these changes, and how effectively are such powers being used? We are very grateful to all those who have submitted evidence to our inquiry so far, and we are now taking evidence in Glenrothes to get a firsthand account of these issues from the local people involved. The meeting is open to the public and all are welcome to attend and hear from their local councillors and housing associations for themselves. ”

Further information

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