West Dunbartonshire hardest hit in the UK from ‘bedroom tax’

Paying bills stockResidents in West Dunbartonshire are the worst hit in the entire UK by the ‘bedroom tax’ with more than £1.8 million deducted from housing benefit claimants each year, according to new figures.

The constituency was revealed as having £35,700 deducted from housing benefit recipients every week as a result of the removal of the ‘spare room subsidy’– more than any other part of the UK.

The statistic was announced in response to a parliamentary question to the UK work and pensions secretary Caroline Dinenage last week.

West Dunbartonshire MP Martin Docherty-Hughes said that totals more than £1.8 million each year blocked from some of the most deprived communities in the UK.

He said: “These new figures reveal that low-income and vulnerable residents in West Dunbartonshire pay more towards the Tories’ damaging bedroom tax than any other part of the UK. The Tory UK Government is taking £1.8m per year alone from housing benefit claimants in West Dunbartonshire — with millions of pounds more being squeezed from hard-pressed households across Scotland.”

After Westminster ended the ‘spare room subsidy’, the Scottish Government has covered the bill for the deductions north of the border and has promised to abolish it once welfare reforms are passed in Scotland.”

Mr Docherty-Hughes added: “Thanks to the SNP nobody in Scotland has to pay the bedroom tax; providing a lifeline for people in West Dunbartonshire and across Scotland who are struggling to make ends meet.

“But the Scottish Government is forced to spend £47m per year to mitigate the bedroom tax as a result of this punitive UK government policy – costing Scottish taxpayers millions of pounds which could be put to better use tackling the root causes of poverty in our communities.

“That is why the SNP will use new powers coming to Holyrood to abolish the unfair bedroom tax in Scotland for good. We will continue to fight these damaging Tory cuts and work to create a Scottish social security system based on dignity, fairness and respect.”

Clair Coyle, of West Dunbartonshire Foodshare, warned that three quarters of those using their services ask for help because of benefit problems.

The trustee with the charity said 76% of residents turning to the foodshare face benefit issues, including lengthy waits for benefits to start, moving from ESA to JSA, and sanctions. In the first six months of 2017, they handed out 4,735 bags of food.

Ms Coyle said: “We support mainly people who have no money and no food. This means the household budget is £0, or not far off it.

“For families affected by waits for benefits to start or sanctions, it can be that their only income for a while is child benefit.

“This is extremely worrying given that there are children to feed, clothe and support.

“We are very concerned as the partial roll out of Universal Credit has had an immense, adverse effect on single people.

“If this is introduced for families, then this will have a devastating effect on our community and the health and well-being of many families, especially children.”

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