Decision to give Scotland power to set housing payments cap 'a victory for social justice'
Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Bill Payments, Housing, Local Government
Decision to give Scotland power over setting housing payment cap 'a victory for social justice'
The decision to give the Scottish government the power to set the cap on discretionary housing payments in order to help people hit by welfare reforms has been hailed as "a victory for common sense and social justice".
The UK government says the move demonstrated its "commitment to taking a pragmatic approach to devolution and to engaging intensely with local authorities in Scotland".
It will give the Scottish government the flexibility to pass on more funding from its existing block grant to local authorities. It is then up to local authorities how they choose to allocate their money.
In a letter to Scotland's deputy first minister, Mr Mundell offered to transfer the power to the Scottish government through a Section 63 Order which will require the agreement of the UK and Scottish governments before being approved by both parliaments.
DHPs can be used by local authorities to provide additional funding for people in receipt of housing benefit who need extra support.
At present each local authority must operate within a formula-based spending cap set by the Department for Work and Pensions. The proposal from the UK government would mean that the Scottish government would have the power to set the DHP cap for Scottish local authorities in future.
Mr Mundell said: "I have completed a programme of visits to all Scottish local authorities and believe that transferring this power to the Scottish government is the correct thing to do.
"The UK government believes in taking a pragmatic approach to devolution and we believe in a United Kingdom that gives Scotland the best of both worlds. I hope that officials from both governments will now be able to take this forward."
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “This is great news for the more than 70,000 households affected by the iniquitous bedroom tax in Scotland and we congratulate the Scottish government for making it happen.
“Ultimately the only way to banish the bedroom tax is to scrap the policy for good. Until that time, the Scottish government can now fulfil its commitment to help all those struggling to pay their rent as a result of the bedroom tax. This is not only a victory for common sense it is a victory for social justice.”
Universal credit expert Bill Irvine, said: "This represents really good news to Scottish landlords, particularly those in Social Sector, who will benefit most from this, and whose anticipated rent arrears during 2013/14 were greatly reduced by the extra £20m boost to the DHP fund last October.
"Councils have been pulling out all the stops to make use of the additional funding, so as to fully assist tenants and their landlords. This announcement will be warmly welcomed by all concerned, and permits the SG to repeat, and even improve, on the support for this year, and, in the future.
"Scottish "working age" tenants also benefited from the SG decision to absorb the 10% drop in block funding which could have resulted in council tax liabilities being created.
"In contrast, social landlord tenants in England, in particular, will continue to struggle to cope with bedroom tax sanctions; a totally inadequate DHP pot, by comparison; plus "working age" tenants experiencing the double-whammy, created by new liabilities, arising from the council tax reduction scheme; over-zealous court action to recover these council tax debts; and the follow-up bailiff action and associated costs, which only add to the tenant and landlord woes!"