Bedroom tax sparks council rent arrears surge

A protest about the bedroom tax. Picture: TSPL
A protest about the bedroom tax. Picture: TSPL
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AROUND three-quarters of all city tenants dragged into the bedroom tax saga are now debt-ridden and behind in their rent, new figures have revealed.

More than 2500 residents have plunged into rent arrears – a three-fold increase from before the controversial under-occupancy rules were brought into force.

And it has emerged crisis grants – the much-needed safety net in the event of emergency – are going uncollected with just ten per cent of the £750,000 fund taken up by hard-pressed tenants. A city finance report urged action to raise awareness of the grants with moves to plough some of the excess money into local food banks to “support their efforts to provide relief for those in crisis in the city”.

The Scottish Government said it “broadened and clarified eligibility” for grants in October and expected uptake to rise.

It is understood city leader Andrew Burns, Cllr Ricky Henderson and housing leader Cammy Day met yesterday with David Mundell MP, under-secretary of State for Scotland, to discuss the impact of welfare reform on the 

Today, Cllr Day stressed that despite the council’s no-eviction policy on rent arrears sparked through bedroom tax, welfare reforms were “seriously affecting some of the most vulnerable in our society”.

And he said: “Rent income is the sole source we have to invest in upgrading council homes and for investing in new homes. The impact of welfare reform means we will have to re -look at future investment plans for desperately needed affordable housing for Edinburgh.”

Campaigner George Lamb is one of those affected by the benefits changes but has managed to stave off debt by 
cutting his cloth and paying rent through standing orders.

He said: “The rise in the number of people in debt is appalling but for many people facing cuts in their benefits as a result of reforms having this level of uncertainty doesn’t allow you to spend with any confidence that you will have the money you need and you have to cut back.”