COUNCIL house tenants who fall into rent arrears due to the Bedroom Tax will not be evicted - so long as they get in touch to discuss their financial difficulties.
Fife Council this week pledged to do everything in its power to support Fifers struggling under the weight of welfare reforms.
A £1m discretionary housing fund will be created to help some of the 5000 Council tenants who will be adversely affected by the under-occupation legislation – the so-called Bedroom Tax’
With 1300 housing association tenants in Fife also affected, the Council is also calling on the Scottish Government to look at practical ways of providing support to minimise the impact.
Under the new legislation, which comes into force next week, the amount of housing benefit people receive will be cut if they are deemed to have a spare bedroom in their Council or housing association home.
Council leader Alex Rowley: “We will do everything legitimately possible to help tenants who find themselves in financial difficulties as a direct result of the Bedroom Tax.
“As a first step, people have to get in touch with us if they are struggling and we will discuss how we can help them avoid falling into arrears.
“Fifers who are genuinely in need of support can talk to us about new financial agreements that could help ease the pressure. Work with us and we can avoid the scenario of evictions.
“If people are having difficulties then they need to contacts us and we can ensure that no one in Fife will be left without a roof over their heads because of the ‘bedroom tax’.”
The executive committee this week also confirmed Fife tenants who are in arrears will not be prevented from transferring to smaller properties to avoid the impact of the new tax.
And there will be no penalty for those on waiting lists who refuse a property on the basis it will cost more as a result of the new legislation.
Councillors condemned the ‘bedroom tax’, with Councillor Brian Goodall, the SNP group’s housing spokesman, admitting the “crazy proposals” made him feel sick.
“We’re talking about people’s homes,” he said. “They’re not just some stop-gap before going on to reach the utopia of owner occupation. They’re not some sort of provision which can be over-occupied or under-occupied. These are people’s homes.”
Councillor David Ross, Labour’s housing spokesman, said: “Many of us have serious concerns about the welfare reforms. A lot of it is just wrong.
“The Bedroom Tax is appalling and will hit some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.”
The council has set up a mini-site www.fifedirect.org.uk/welfarereform which has information about the welfare reforms. Those affected can also speak to someone face-to-face at their nearest local office and there is a welfare reform information line on 0345 1400 031.