Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee today ...

Council's main Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee meeting earlier this morning ... all the papers available here ... and obviously, most discussion/debate centred around the Bedroom Tax Report, copy of which can be found here.

I'll simply cut-and-paste below the agreed recommendations and associated motion ... Labour/SNP/Greens all supported:

It is recommended that Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee:
  1. Notes that around 3,800 Council tenants will be affected by the reform.
  2. Notes that rental income funds housing management services, improvements to existing homes and building new affordable homes.
  3. Notes the approaches adopted by other local authorities and that of the Govan Law Centre.
  4. Notes the Council’s current practice for managing rent arrears is in line with policies now being adopted by Dundee, Clackmannanshire and West Dunbartonshire Councils which support a no evictions approach.
  5. Notes the additional measures that could be introduced to support tenants who are affected by the under-occupation charge and the assessment of the risks associated with disregarding arrears due to under-occupation.
  6. Refers the report to the Health, Wellbeing and Housing Policy Development and Review Sub-Committee on 23 April 2013 for discussion.

Motion By Councillor Ricky Henderson – Welfare Reform

1)        Committee wishes to express its concern regarding the impact that the range of Welfare Reform measures is having on people in Edinburgh.
2)        Specifically the Committee is concerned that, from April 2013, measures to reduce housing benefit for tenants of local authorities and housing associations (Bedroom Tax) have not taken account of the acute shortage of one bedroom homes.  This will lead to significant hardship for the tenants affected and increase the risk of homelessness.
3)        Committee is further concerned that these measures may have an adverse impact on council and housing association landlords’ rental income and their ability to invest in improving their own stock and in building new, affordable to heat, homes.
4)        Committee notes that there is a significant risk of a reduction of £45 million in capital investment, funded from the Housing Revenue Account, as a result of this and other measures.
5)        Committee agrees:
a) that where the Director of Services for Communities is satisfied that tenants who are subject to the under-occupancy charge have done all they reasonably could to avoid falling in to arrears, then all legitimate means to collect rent arrears should be utilised except eviction
b) to establish a joint working group that will include elected members, officials from Housing and Revenues and Benefits, Registered Social Landlords and tenants representatives. The role of the working group shall be to monitor the implementation and impact of various benefits changes and to contribute to consideration of further measures to support tenants.
c) to support calls by local campaigns to scrap the Bedroom Tax.
d) To seek a further report on decisions made by other councils in England and Scotland to re-designate bedrooms, providing information on the rationale and impact of these decisions.
e) That the Council will use its influence to encourage Edinburgh’s Registered Social Landlords to adopt a policy of not evicting tenants for bedroom tax arrears.
f) To continue to work constructively with the Scottish Government and to seek a meeting with the relevant minister to discuss issues affecting Edinburgh as a result of the welfare reform changes.
g) To call for a report on the implications of the Govan Law Centre’s guide on “Challenging your bedroom tax decision”.

Moved by Cllr Ricky Henderson
Seconded by Cllr Steve Cardownie


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