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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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300 Aberdeenshire Tenants in Arrears as a Result of Bedroom Tax

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has accused Labour MPs of a ‘gross dereliction of duty’, after 47 failed to vote against the hated under-occupancy penalty – better known as the Bedroom Tax.

The opposition day debate on Tuesday was initiated by Labour - yet 47 Labour MPs, including ten Scottish Labour MPs, failed to turn up, and the motion was defeated by just 26 votes.

The ‘under occupancy penalty’ sees cuts to housing benefit for those living in council houses with spare bedrooms. 850 families in Aberdeenshire are affected, with 300 council tenants now in arrears due to the policy. Critics point out that years of under-investment in social housing by Westminster mean that there are few smaller houses for tenants to downsize to; and that the policy unjustly targets the poor.

Around 82,000 households are affected across Scotland, and eight out of ten households affected by the tax include a disabled person.

Speaking after the vote, Dr Whiteford described the no-show by Labour MPs as: “astonishing.” She said:

“It beggars belief that Labour, with support from the other opposition parties, should initiate this debate, then fail to attend in anything approaching adequate numbers. The fact that most Scottish Lib Dems turned out to support the Conservatives is par for the course. But the mass no-show from Labour is bitterly disappointing to those who have campaigned against this tax - myself included.

“The people of Aberdeenshire are entitled to explanations for this puzzling behaviour. Some may have quite legitimate reasons for not being there, but we have to ask why a quarter of Scottish Labour MPs failed to show up to their own vote. From press releases over the last week, one might have been forgiven for thinking that Labour were against this contemptible policy. The fact that they failed to turn out in sufficient numbers tells a very different story.

“Just 26 votes could have overturned the bedroom tax – Labour have to explain why their MPs did not turn up. This speaks of confusion at best and a gross dereliction of duty at worst.”

SNP councillor Anne Allan (Peterhead North & Rattray), sits on Aberdeenshire Council’s Housing and Social Work Committee, and echoed Dr Whiteford’s sentiments. She said:

“The bedroom tax affects hundreds of households across Aberdeenshire, and falls most heavily on those least able to pay. Families are having to choose between paying their rent and eating. Frankly, in a wealthy region of a wealthy country, that isn’t good enough.

”I have witnessed first hand the impact that this terrible policy is having, and in Aberdeenshire, 300 tenants are now in arrears purely because they cannot afford to pay this charge.

“It’s unfair, it’s unsustainable, and Westminster needs to look again at the impact its policies are having on the most disadvantaged sectors of our society.”

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