Bedroom tax will hit 3000 in Falkirk area

Barry Neill being evicted from his Bankhead upper flat, Lesmahagow
Barry Neill being evicted from his Bankhead upper flat, Lesmahagow
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Falkirk Council has vowed to do all it can not to evict tenants who are struggling to pay their rents because of the bedroom tax.

Local authority chiefs met this week to decide how they are going to deal with the impact of the unpopular welfare reform which will affect almost 3000 local residents.

As part of new legislation from the UK Government, tenants who are living in properties deemed to have spare bedrooms will have their housing benefits cut.

A number of Scottish authorities, including Falkirk, have opted to help residents affected by the new measures and have pledged not to evict.

However, the no-eviction policy applies only to those who are in arrears solely due to the bedroom tax and circumstances will be subject to a review after one year.

Council leader, Craig Martin told the Executive on Tuesday: “Three thousand households will be affected by this.

“Our message is clear – we will give help and support to the people affected by the bedroom tax.

“We have an excellent early intervention team to help people deal with this and we have employed more staff to help people.”

The Labour-led administration has agreed that if tenants have accrued rent arrears solely due to size criteria and are doing all that can be reasonably expected to avoid arrears, the council will use all 
means possible to collect rent, but will not evict for 12 
months.

However, members were told by finance chief Bryan Smail that there was no legal framework to allow bedroom tax arrears to be dealt with any differently from other non-payment of rent in the long run.

Councillor Linda Gow said: “I move that Falkirk Council should adopt the no-evictions policy for the first year for those with a clear rent account.

“But it would be remiss of me not to mention that we are not allowed to treat this debt differently.

“I believe punishing people by taking their homes from them because they are in 
poverty is wrong.”

Even Conservative Councillor Malcolm Nicol said the bedroom tax “was not particularly well thought out”, but argued that a big problem in the area was the lack of smaller properties.

SNP councillors, who are boycotting the new council structure, did not attend the meeting.