Council to pay the bedroom tax

Back in June protesters burned  bedroom tax letters outside the council's housing office
Back in June protesters burned bedroom tax letters outside the council's housing office

The council will match bedroom tax demands literally pound for pound in the worst hardship cases, using cash specially set aside.

Even tenants who aren’t in the greatest need could qualify for a percentage of bedroom tax such as half or 75 per cent.

That was the pledge from North lanarkshire Council leader Jim McCabe this week, who however stressed the authority is powerless to do anything to help people who completely ignore tax demands and “refuse to engage” with housing officials.

He said: “We’re the biggest social landlord and consequently we’ve decided to do everything possible to offset this iniquitous tax - and we’ll be ploughing more money into social housing, for example into one-bedroom flats where there’s a shortage.

“But we can only help people who speak to us, and so allow us to properly assess how we’re able to help them.

“Some people who refused to pay poll tax are still paying it now - because there’s a legal obligation on councils to recover money. Back then there was nobody trying to help the worst-affected with payment, whereas now our council is doing everything possible to aid those facing genuine hardship.”

Meanwhile the group Scottish Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation has vowed to “physically prevent sheriff officers removing a tenant who cannot pay bedroom tax”, asserting: “Better to break the law than break the poor”.

It staged a protest rally at Viewpark’s Fallside Community Centre with speakers including former MSP Tommy Sheridan.

The SNP has accused North Lanarkshire Council of being prepared to use “barbaric” methods to deal with people who default on bedroom tax.

But the Labour-controlled administration has angrily responded by saying SNP councils have raised rent far higher than North Lanarkshire’s 1.5 per cent increase - and obliged people to move far from areas they’ve lived all their lives in order to downsize so as to pay the same rent as before.

The council has consistently refused to declare a “no evictions” policy on the grounds that by removing that ultimate sanction some tenants already refusing to pay rent could decide they need pay nothing at all.

That would hinder the council’s ability to help those in chronic need, it’s argued.

But it completely rejects the Anti Bedroom Tax Federation claim that it is “threatening people” struggling with bills, arguing that it is fulfilling a statutory duty - and doing everything possible to prevent hardship.