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£1.4m to reduce benefit cuts pain

Aug 26, 2013

COUNCILS across the south of Scotland have been given extra funding to help housing benefit claimants affected by the so-called “bedroom tax”.

COUNCILS across the south of Scotland have been given extra funding to help housing benefit claimants affected by the so-called “bedroom tax”.

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MP David Mundell hopes the changes are fair

Meanwhile there is a call for a “no evictions” policy to be introduced to safeguard tenants who may find themselves in arrears due to the welfare reforms.

The financial support is part of a £35m package for local authorities across Scotland to help those who need extra financial help following changes to welfare benefits, including £5m specifically for the country’s most sparsely populated areas.

The announcement means that Dumfries and Galloway will receive at least £488,177 from the Department for Work and Pensions, the second highest of any local authority in Scotland. The funding is in addition to £232,000 allocated by the DWP for discretionary housing benefit payments, and £262,000 set aside by the council.

Labour politicians say there are estimates which show that cuts to housing benefit to residents in Dumfries and Galloway affected by the changes will reach £980,000 and that the bail-out money awarded will not meet the cost applications.

Scottish Borders Council (SBC) is receiving £460,000 – £300,000 more than last year’s allocation. The money will mean that anyone with specific needs or for whom no readily available alternative smaller accommodation is available should be helped out.

MP David Mundell has met with Dumfries and Galloway Council and Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership to discuss the Spare Room Subsidy.

He said: “Reform of housing benefit is essential. Working people need to have confidence that their taxes are being well spent but we also need to make sure that the Government provides adequate support to those who are most in need. The Government has tried to ensure that any changes are as fair as possible and I am pleased, after listening to the concerns of local people, we have managed to secure this extra funding for Dumfries and Galloway. This additional money will allow people to continue living in their community and make sure that people are not penalised simply because they live in more rural communities. I believe this is a common sense approach as obviously there are far more housing alternatives available to people who live elsewhere, in large towns and cities.”

Borders MP Michael Moore said: “This funding boost will help SBC and the housing associations offer greater help to vulnerable tenants whilst still ensuring that housing benefit for social housing is brought into line with support for private tenants.”

Labour politicians are urging Dumfries and Galloway Council and local housing associations to work together to agree a “no evictions” policy.

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said, “Rural areas such as Dumfries and Galloway are disproportionately affected. Even if someone in a two bedroom housing association property wanted to move to a one bedroom property to avoid being penalised, the reality is there are simply not the properties available.”

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