Falkirk Council resumes paying benefit top-ups to those hit by Bedroom Tax

The introduction of the so-called Bedroom Tax has prompted widespread protests
The introduction of the so-called Bedroom Tax has prompted widespread protests

Falkirk Council has resumed paying benefit top-ups to tenants struggling to pay their rent after it temporarily suspended the scheme due to uncertainty over funding.

The local authority stopped paying discretionary housing payments (DHP) to individuals not affected by the Bedroom Tax over concerns that it was facing a financial shortfall due to a high volume of applications.

A council spokesman said: “We had temporarily held claims for good reason because of the uncertainty over funding, but assurances over funding has now allowed us to go ahead and progress these claims.

“We have processed the high priority ones and are considering all of the remaining ones which were on hold.”

The council had estimated that it needed £1.34 million to mitigate the impact of the controversial Bedroom Tax, which was introduced by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition at Westminster and penalises benefit claimants who stay in properties with unused spare rooms.

But it suspended DHP 
payments after assessing that it had only £645,000 left in its fund.

The Falkirk Herald was contacted last week by a member of the public, who asked not to be named, who was concerned that the suspension could force vulnerable people out of their homes.

They said: “Lots of people in the Falkirk area have been claiming and being awarded DHP to cover this shortfall, and the pot is now empty.”

The council confirmed yesterday (Wednesday) that it would now be resuming DHP payments.

The Scottish Government was handed powers by Westminster to mitigate the impact of the tax in May, which were in turn passed on to local authorities.

A Falkirk Council spokesman added: “Once the funding is confirmed and the policy approved, we will then be contacting those affected by bedroom tax in 2014/15 who have not yet made a claim for help to make sure they do.

“The funding decision will also then let us be able to establish what additional funds if any the council will need to find to make payments in 2014/15 to those in need of help to meet a shortfall in their rent who are on Housing Benefit but who are not affected by bedroom tax.

“We have 120 claims from households that fall into this group which we are currently assessing.”