A FRESH attack has been made on benefit reforms – including the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ – with the council pledging only to evict as a “last resort”.
The council has already written to both UK and Scottish Governments on two occasions spelling out the adverse impact that welfare reforms will have on residents across East Dunbartonshire.
A motion was agreed at a recent meeting of the full council, which instructed officers to:
* Continue the good work being done by staff and the local Citizens Advice Bureau to help those already affected by the welfare reforms.
* Use all legitimate means to collect rent due and reaffirm the current practice to ensure that eviction is the very last resort in all rent arrear cases. Work with tenants to set up a payment plan if arrears do or could occur to avoid any threat of eviction.
* Ensure the council maximises the use of discretionary housing benefit and the ‘Incentive to Move’ scheme.
* Work with other landlords to minimise cases presenting as homeless and ensuring that any such cases are not routinely classified as “intentionally homeless”.
* As well as work already undertaken to identify the cases who have lost benefits due to the under-occupation changes, officers are also instructed to bring forward a plan to mitigate against the impact of the ongoing changes due to welfare reforms. The plan will include the use of credit unions and access to PCs.
* Ensure that oficers provide full information, advice and assistance on rents, housing benefit and other welfare benefits.
Council leader Rhondda Geekie said: “The measures agreed we hope will encourage residents to engage with us at an early stage and before debt becomes a real problem for families.
“Our policies will remain the same, but with an emphasis of working with people to make sure they are getting all the advice and assistance possible.”
A motion on under-occupancy was originally raised at the meeting of the full council by Councillor Ian Mackay.
MP Jo Swinson – Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs – said: “A number of local residents will be concerned about changes to the welfare system, so it is only sensible that East Dunbartonshire Council will be providing advice and assistance.
“Sustainable solutions should be sought that make better use of our limited housing stock and that assist those who would like to move but who cannot afford to, and those who would like to stay in their homes, but who need to adjust to a lower income.”
East Dunbartonshire Council estimates that 643 council housing benefit claimants will be affected.
Hillhead Housing Association has an estimated 127 tenants who will be affected, while Antonine HA reports 41 families will suffer.
Advice and information is available from the council website – www.eastdunbarton.gov.uk/welfarereform or call the contact centre on 0300 123 4510.
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