Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has reported on her blog that 300 Aberdeenshire council tenants are in arrears as a result of the Governments controversial ‘Bedroom Tax’ which is officially known as Social Sector Size Criteria.
In her blog post Dr Whiteford wrote
The ‘under occupancy penalty’ sees cuts to housing benefit for those living in council houses with spare bedrooms. 850 families in Aberdeenshire are affected, with 300 council tenants now in arrears due to the policy. Critics point out that years of under-investment in social housing by Westminster mean that there are few smaller houses for tenants to downsize to; and that the policy unjustly targets the poor.
and blasted Labour MPs for a ‘gross dereliction of duty’, after 47 failed to vote against the hated under-occupancy penalty.
Speaking after the vote, Dr Whiteford described the no-show by Labour MPs as astonishing. saying
It beggars belief that Labour, with support from the other opposition parties, should initiate this debate, then fail to attend in anything approaching adequate numbers. The fact that most Scottish Lib Dems turned out to support the Conservatives is par for the course. But the mass no-show from Labour is bitterly disappointing to those who have campaigned against this tax – myself included.
The people of Aberdeenshire are entitled to explanations for this puzzling behaviour. Some may have quite legitimate reasons for not being there, but we have to ask why a quarter of Scottish Labour MPs failed to show up to their own vote. From press releases over the last week, one might have been forgiven for thinking that Labour were against this contemptible policy. The fact that they failed to turn out in sufficient numbers tells a very different story.
Just 26 votes could have overturned the bedroom tax – Labour have to explain why their MPs did not turn up. This speaks of confusion at best and a gross dereliction of duty at worst.
SNP councillor Anne Allan (Peterhead North & Rattray), who sits on Aberdeenshire Council’s Housing and Social Work Committee, and echoed Dr Whiteford’s sentiments saying
The bedroom tax affects hundreds of households across Aberdeenshire, and falls most heavily on those least able to pay. Families are having to choose between paying their rent and eating. Frankly, in a wealthy region of a wealthy country, that isn’t good enough.
I have witnessed first hand the impact that this terrible policy is having, and in Aberdeenshire, 300 tenants are now in arrears purely because they cannot afford to pay this charge. It’s unfair, it’s unsustainable, and Westminster needs to look again at the impact its policies are having on the most disadvantaged sectors of our society.
If you are affected by the ‘Bedroom Tax’ you should contact Aberdeenshire Council to see what help may be available to you, http://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/benefits/welfare/SocialSectorSizeCriteria.asp