Nicola Sturgeon has asked the UK government for permission to spend an extra £15 million to help councils mitigate against the effects of the ‘bedroom tax’.
The Deputy First Minister has asked the Department for Work and Pensions to lift the cap on discretionary spending to help up to 76, 000 tenants affected by the benefit changes.
The move, which has cross-party support in the Scottish Parliament, would be seen as an opportunity to all but axe the bedroom tax in Scotland.
Mrs Sturgeon, speaking on BBC Radio Scotland on Monday morning, said: “I think it’s absurd that we are having to try to jump through hoops trying to find money within a fixed budget to mitigate the impact of a policy that’s opposed by a majority of the Scottish parliament, opposed by a majority of the Scottish people, being imposed on us by a government we didn’t vote for.”
She continued: “It would make much more sense to have the powers of welfare in Scotland so that we don’t have a bedroom tax in the first place. But we want to do the right thing.”
Under the bedroom tax, claimants lose 14 per cent of their housing benefit if a spare bedroom is deemed unoccupied. The cost ranges from £14 to £25 a week. The move has hit disabled and vulnerable people hardest, plunging many into rent arrears.
The move comes at an interesting time after a report published today by the UN’s special investigator on housing, Raquel Rolnik, called for the abolition of the bedroom tax, saying it negatively “impacts on the right to adequate housing and general well-being of many vulnerable individuals and households”.
The report prompted a strong response from government ministers who were quick to discredit the report, with Housing minister Kris Hopkins calling it a “misleading Marxist diatribe.”
Downing Street has said that Lord Freud, the UK Welfare minister, would respond to the Deputy First Minister’s request “in due course”.