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Tories say No to SNP axe of bedroom tax

Right-wing MSPs refuse help raise relief cap

Cuts-crazed Tories have "no intention" of letting Scotland's tenants escape the bedroom tax, housing campaigners said after a meeting with Conservative MSPs.

Bin The Bedroom Tax campaigners met behind closed doors with Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson and housing spokesman Alex Johnstone yesterday in the latest bid to abolish the widely-reviled policy.

SNP Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged earlier this week to effectively end the sanctions for tenants and housing associations in Scotland by upping her government's funding of "discretionary housing payments" from £20 million to £35m.

But the gambit hinges on gaining approval from Westminster to raise its cap on the amount Scottish government can allocate to such payments - with Ms Sturgeon now lobbying the same ministers who engineered the policy.

The bedroom tax scheme docks housing benefit payments by up to 24 per cent for those in council or housing association homes if they are deemed "under-occupied."

Those households face eviction unless they can pay an average £728 a year in arrears - the equivalent of six weeks' rent.

The Scottish Tenants Organisation's Sean Clerkin told the Star that he and two other campaigners had urged Ms Davidson and Mr Johnstone to pressure their colleagues in Westminster to raise the cap.

But the Tories had been "quite clear they have no intention of letting that happen."

Mr Clerkin said: "She was quite clear that the money could be funded in other ways - they were talking about using the £15m for private house building."

Govanhill Housing Association ex-chairman John Flanagan, who attended the meeting, said a refusal from Westminster would amount to an attempt to dictate the Scottish budget.

"It's up to the Scottish government to decide how it spends the money," he said. "The parliament opposes it as a whole. No-one wants the bedroom tax apart from the Tories."


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