Argyll and Bute Council will receive more than £370,000 from the UK government this year to deal with the effects of the ‘bedroom tax’ on housing association tenants.
The Department of Work and Pensions announced news on Tuesday of a new £35 million package which includes provision of £5 million to the UK’s 21 ‘most sparsely populated’ council areas, including Argyll and Bute, to be targeted at tenants in rural or island communities who have a spare bedroom, but who cannot find a smaller house to move to.
A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions told The Buteman on Wednesday that Argyll and Bute’s share of that £5 million pot would be £252,313.
That comprises an increase of £218,055 in ‘discretionary housing benefit’, plus £34,252 in admin costs - which, on top of an initial allocation of £152,601, gives a total for Argyll and Bute this year of £370,656.
Argyll and Bute MP Alan Reid said: “Since the bedroom tax was first announced I have been saying that many tenants in rural areas who have more bedrooms than they need will not be able to find a smaller property to move to.
“I called on several occasions for more discretionary housing benefit money for rural councils like Argyll and Bute, so I am pleased that today the Government answered my call by allocating extra cash to Argyll and Bute Council.
“This is money that the council can use to pay the bedroom tax on behalf of tenants who cannot find a smaller property.”
The total £35 million package also includes £10m in ‘transitional payments’ which, according to a DWP news release, “will provide flexible funding for local authorities” and “will be distributed to councils based on working age social sector caseload, rent levels and regional levels of under-occupation”.
In addition Argyll and Bute, like other local councils across the UK, will be able to bid for a share of £20 million “if they can demonstrate that they are managing their discretionary housing payment allocation in a robust, fair and appropriate manner”.
Mr Reid added: “I hope that the council’s SNP administration will actually use all this money to help tenants on low incomes, unlike last year when they handed more than one pound in seven of their discretionary housing benefit money back to the Treasury instead of spending it in Argyll and Bute.”
The DWP’s list of 21 rural council areas, and their allocations from the £5 million pot, are as follows: Eilean Siar £66,930; Highland £734,995; Argyll and Bute £252,313; Shetland Islands £46,748; Orkney Islands £37,071; Dumfries and Galloway £488,177; Eden £133,104; Scottish Borders £322,067; Powys £357,870; Perth and Kinross £361,018; Ryedale £157,746; Aberdeenshire £412,173; Moray £180,923; Richmondshire £104,640; Stirling £272,576; Ceredigion £161,542; West Devon £79,143; Craven £110,926; Gwynedd £363,788; West Somerset £81,850; Angus £274,401.