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Labour group leader on Dumfries and Galloway Council Ronnie Nicholson has confirmed that once again this year no one in the region will lose out as a result of the introduction of the “bedroom tax”.

The news came after a meeting of the council’s Welfare Reform Subcommittee (Thursday 13 March 2014) where the decision was made to continue paying  Discretionary Housing Benefit for another year to every victim of the “bedroom tax” in the region for the full amount they have cut from their Housing Benefit by the UK Government. 

In October 2013, one of the first decisions of the new Labour led council administration was to agree that for all cases within the Social Rented Sector where housing benefit has been reduced as a result of the “bedroom tax” and the imposition of the benefit cap, a discretionary housing pay would be paid to cover the amount of Housing Benefit cut and this will now b extended for a further year.  Proposals will also be brought before the Welfare Reform Subcommittee in May to extend the commitment for the full term of the council.

Councillor Ronnie Nicholson said,” I’m proud that one of the first moves of the new Labour led council was to ensure that no one loses out as a result of this hated tax. I’m pleased to confirm that Discretionary Housing payments will be made by the council to all the victims of the tax for a further year. We are now looking at extending the payments for the full term of the council. I hope to be able to make an announcement on that in May.   I want to give thousands of local people the reassurance they need that they will continue to have a roof over their heads.  Those affected are innocent victims of the Tory led UK Government who have no idea what its like to live on a low income and worry from week to week how you are going to pay the bills.  However, whilst the council can mitigate the effects of the tax, in the long term the people of Dumfries and Galloway need it axed.”

The proposal has been welcomed by Dumfries and Galloway Russell Brown MP who has pledged that the next Labour Government will scrap the “bedroom tax”. Russell said, “I welcome the move by the council to protect local people from the hated “bedroom tax”. The bedroom tax blights the lives of 1,780 local households across Dumfries and Galloway. This is a real common sense move by the council because it will actually save the taxpayer money. Without this measure the hard pressed council tax payer would be left to pick up the bill for people who become homeless as a result of being evicted. However, in the long term what we need to see is this hated tax scrapped all together and that’s what a future Labour government would do”.

Stranraer and North Rhins Councillor Marion McCutcheon highlighted the impact of “bedroom tax” in her ward, which is one of the most deprived in the region. Marion said, “Fears over the bedroom tax are a real issue in areas such as Stranraer where we do have a lot of people on low incomes. One of the biggest issues raised with me by tenants that would have to pay this tax if it wasn’t for the council stepping is the fact that there is a shortage of one bedroom properties. That means even if someone in a two bedroom housing association property wanted to move to a smaller home to avoid being penalised by the bedroom tax, there is nowhere for them to go. That isn’t going to change overnight, so I’m delighted that we have been able to make these payments available that will be a real releife to the many people in Stranraer who otherwise would really struggle to keep a roof over their heads”

The move has been made possible as a result of extra funding from the Scottish Government. This was negotiated by Labour MSPs during the recent budget setting process in the Scottish Parliament. Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray said, “Securing the extra funding from the Scottish Government was a real victory for the 1,780 local households across Dumfries and Galloway. They now have the burden of the bedroom tax removed from them for at least another year as a result of the Labour led Councils decision to allocate this funding directly to Discretionary Housing payments for victims of the bedroom tax . I am pleased that after Labour MSPs urged the Scottish Government, for more than a year, to support tenants and social landlords by providing the money to cancel out the bedroom tax that they agreed to do so”. 

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