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:
“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:
”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.”