Can Labour and the SNP work together against the Bedroom Tax?

DUNCAN HOTHERSALL calls on Scotland’s two biggest parties to find common cause for once


In two days, one of the most damaging, heartless and ultimately futile elements of the UK government’s welfare reform package comes into effect.

The Bedroom Tax, as it has been dubbed, will penalise people if they have more bedrooms in their social or housing association home than the government deems appropriate. Families with disabled children will be particularly badly affected since they often require additional space for medical needs. Disabled adults are also targeted by this law, alongside those serving in the armed forces and hundreds of thousands of other families across the country.

The government hopes to use this brute force method to free up social housing stock by moving people into smaller properties. There is a fundamental problem: the smaller properties simply don’t exist. And yet even if there is no smaller property to move to, families will still have the Bedroom Tax imposed. It is as illogical as it is unfair.

Both the SNP and Scottish Labour strongly oppose this policy. Up to now, however, we have spent more effort discrediting each other’s approaches to opposing it than we have to mitigating its effects. And the truth is we can mitigate its effects to a significant extent. Local authorities can adopt policies which protect tenants, and the Scottish Parliament can find funds to offset the losses councils will feel.

While we fight each other, the UK government is laughing up its sleeve. This is madness.

So here’s a challenge. We’ve found ways to disagree on this, and we’ve found ways to turn it into yet another argument about independence. How about we set those aside and instead find where we agree, and how about we unite to protect social and housing association tenants from this dangerous, bad law?

An assumption against evictions is a good start, as promoted by SNP councils, but we need to be honest about how far that goes and not pretend it is a guarantee or a solution. We need to find real money to fund discretionary housing benefit payments from councils to tenants at risk. And we can justify this by looking at the costs of an eviction, and realising that preventing evictions and rehousing in the same stock is cheaper than allowing them to happen.

We have a choice. We can shout at each other and let people suffer, or we can work together and mitigate the worst effects of this law. In Edinburgh, Labour and the SNP have found a great deal of common ground in local government, and the Capital Coalition is successfully delivering a progressive vision for the capital. We can do this.

The SNP-Labour Alliance Against the Bedroom Tax: who’s in?

Duncan Hothersall is a Labour Party member and was the founding chair of Pride Scotland as well as a founding director of the Equality Network. Follow Duncan on Twitter at @dhothersall. This post was originally published on Duncan’s blog.

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6 thoughts on “Can Labour and the SNP work together against the Bedroom Tax?

  1. This so called SNP assumption against eviction is nothing more than doubletalk and political scheming. East Ayrshire council has announced that their head of housing will decide on each case, wither the tenants is “Trying” to pay what is due. So now we have a means testing head of housing with no official guidelines on what constitutes “trying” its a farce and all the while they say they will take all necessary steps to reclaim debt, that means only one thing Sheriff Officers. So in effect this announcement is totally meaningless and further exacerbates the misinformation that is already doing the rounds.

  2. ‘Can Labour and the SNP work together against the Bedroom Tax?’

    Three posts down.

    ‘SNP decline opportunity to protect Scots from Bedroom Tax’

    The former IS a question so rhetorical it barely requires a question mark.

  3. Labour need to get agreement among themselves at a unionist and Scottish level on the subject before there can be any hope of agreement with other parties .

  4. Today I seen a old friend she talked about this benfit cuts . And started to cry
    Because she and her two baby boys were going to be homeless she seemed
    So hopeless. That it made me emotional and got me going to I wish I could
    Have helped but I can actually hardly survive my self and now have
    To help my disabled parents with there bedroom tax… hopfully this benefit
    Cuts can be withdrawed and the conservatives can stick that
    Red hand bag up there ass….

  5. we are not capable of a realistic challenge to this attack on the low paid unemployed and the sick.just these three have been turned against eachother by the tory and so called liberals. my dla was counted as an income. i offered to take a one bedroom house in four diffrent areas none available. they still want £8.40 a week dont know whether to pay. Dennis A Allen

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