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Cumbernauld tenants buckling under bedroom tax as rent help requests soar

Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 19:56 GMT on Tuesday, July 16th, 2013.

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Picture: Scott Campbell/ Cumbernauld Media.

TENANTS throughout North Lanarkshire are struggling to cope with finances after the UK Government coalition’s under-occupancy charge came into effect.

The so-called ‘bedroom tax’ was brought in by the UK coalition in April, in an attempt to cut the welfare budget. The measure means that those who are under-occupying their homes see their housing benefit and discretionary housing payment packages slashed, by up to 25 per cent. 

Since the bedroom tax came into effect, charities and campaigners across the UK have said that the measure would push people towards poverty and homelessness, although the Government rejected the claims and said that the measure was necessary. 

This week, however, a Sunday Mail investigation has shown that the issue faces many thousands of people, with some Scottish local authorities seeing appeals for emergency handouts rise to eye-watering levels. 

Thousands of Scottish families have applied for help to pay their rent since the bedroom tax was implemented, with some councils seeing discretionary housing payments (DHP) applications increase ten times over.

A Sunday Mail investigation revealed, this week, that 15,558 social housing tenants in 10 of Scotland’s biggest councils have applied for the help since April 1st, when the benefit cut was  introduced, in comparison to 3553 applications between April and July, last year.

Talking to the Sunday Mail, STUC deputy general secretary Dave Moxham said: “It is ridiculous that Iain Duncan Smith is taking away money with one hand and it is being made up with other public funds.

“If the Scottish Government stepped in with extra funding, it would ensure a lot of suffering was avoided.”

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Included within the figures released by the Sunday Mail, it has been revealed that applications for help to pay rent, to North Lanarkshire Council, have increased 13 times over, from 174 to 2306. 

North Lanarkshire Council has since announced that they are putting £562,000 forward to help tenants struggling with their rent, in the midst of the bedroom tax’s introduction.

North Lanarkshire Council leader Jim McCabe told the Sunday Mail: “The Department for Work and Pensions is making £1 available to fund every £9 of housing benefit lost.

“Given such huge underfunding, we have to manage the funds very carefully through short-term assistance and awards to those most in need.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We cannot mitigate the full impact of the cuts without full powers over welfare or access to all our resources – but we have pledged to scrap the bedroom tax within a year of independence.”

A DWP spokeswoman said: “It is not affordable to pay housing benefit for people to have spare rooms.

“This reform will save hard-working taxpayers almost £1billion over the next two years and help restore fairness to our housing benefit system.”

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