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Airdrie councillor in bedroom tax advice appeal

Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 15:33 GMT on Thursday, July 25th, 2013.

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08-06-2013 - By Scott Campbell (+44) 0774 296 870 - Abronhill Gala Day, 2013, at Abronhill High School; Picture shows SNP logo on school fence.
Picture: Cumbernauld Media
CONVENOR of the SNP’s Airdrie and Shotts constituency branch , Cllr Michael Coyle has urged residents in his Airdrie South ward, and people throughout Cumbernauld and North Lanarkshire to seek financial advice and avoid falling into escalating arrears, as figures show escalating numbers of tenants being hit by the so-called ‘bedroom tax’.

Cllr Coyle has said he is encountering an ever-increasing number of concerned constituents, during surgeries, with a number of desperate tenants getting in touch with him day and night to discuss their problems and seek advice.

The complaints of tenants follow the introduction of the under-occupancy charge in April, as part of the UK Government’s Welfare Reform Act. The measure means that those who are under-occupying their homes see a reduction in their housing related benefits. 

Cllr Coyle, though, has said that he is meeting an increasing number of concerned tenants, “at their wits’ end” as a result of the welfare changes.

The Airdrie South SNP councillor has praised the council-run Money Advice Centre based in Coatbridge, but he has said that: “People have to deal with this sooner rather than later.”

The Councillor added: “They have to act now to deal with the situation they’re in to protect their tenancies.

“I’m really worried about the number of people who are coming to me with worries about outstanding debts, but it has to be addressed – as burying heads in the sand isn’t the answer. Arrears have to be dealt with before the problem gets larger.

“Many people aren’t used to dealing with this level of debt and are having to choose heating or eating, and it’s only going to get worse when Universal Credit is introduced in October, so people have to be prepared.

“The best advice I can possibly give anyone is to go to the Money Advice Centre in Coatbridge, which is a free service run by the council, to help get things sorted out – it’s important that this is highlighted.

“All four councillors in my ward and across the parties are on the same page in trying to address this. It’s depressing to see the situations that people are in.”
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The SNP man’s comments come after an announcement, on June 30th, by North Lanarkshire Council that they calculated 5503 householders to be in “under-occupied” properties –with 72 per cent of those tenants in arrears.

The rise in the number of tenants has not been likened to the bedroom tax’s implementation, by some, although the council did see an eye-watering rise of tenants entering arrears - from 9480 tenants on March 31st, the day before the bedroom tax was implemented, to 14,553 tenants in less than three months.

Council leader Jim McCabe said the council were doing their upmost to help those affected by the welfare changes.

Cllr McCabe said: “We have put in place additional funding of £5.7m to help tackle the problems being caused by these government-imposed welfare changes.

“We have hired additional staff to advise tenants of their impact who have met with more than 2200 people and this will continue as long as needed.”

He agreed with Councillor Coyle: “It’s essential that people who are struggling to pay their rent contact us as soon as possible, so we can offer them assistance and try to find a solution.”

The Money Advice Centre is based at 453 Main Street in Coatbridge, and can be contacted on 01236 638905, with the council’s contact centre – Northline – available on 01698 403170.
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