MSPs hear from tenants hit by UK spare room charge policy


Householders affected by the new spare room charge have been giving evidence to a committee of MSPs.

They heard from Scott Wilson, who is worried about losing his specially-adapted house, and Anne Bradley who said she was forced to move home.

The witnesses told Holyrood's welfare reform committee of how they had been left struggling and in fear.

The UK government policy cuts housing benefit by up to a quarter for those deemed to have additional bedrooms.

Mr Wilson, from Biggar in South Lanarkshire, lost his gardening business and career as a reserve firefighter after developing Parkinson's.

He sold his home to the council and separated from his partner who left the home with his two children.

The 46-year-old explained to the committee that he stayed in his two-bedroom house under a mortgage-to-let scheme but has now been told he has to move out or have his housing benefit cut.

MSPs are taking evidence on the under-occupancy charge, labelled "the bedroom tax" by critics.

They heard that people have had to borrow to meet extra costs such as moving vans and vehicle fuel.

Mr Wilson said he may have to move up to 20 miles away because of a shortage of one-bedroom homes in Biggar, separating him from his son who has a heart condition and daughter who is expecting his first grandchild.

He told the committee: "I recently separated from my partner of nearly 20 years, partly because of the stress that Parkinson's has put on my family life and relationships. I have lived in my home for 25 years. We had to sell it back to the council because of financial hardship.

"I was shocked when a council employee phoned and told me that my housing benefit would be cut to the equivalent of a one-bedroom home and that I would have to find the additional money from my benefits to pay for two bedrooms.

"I'm going to be a grandfather in a few months but they're expecting me to destroy my family life and move into a one-bedroom house. I'll fight it all the way. I'll not go.

"In the area that I live, you're lucky if there's a dozen one-bedroom houses. But for me to move from a three-bedroom into a one-bedroom, trying to fit all my furniture in, is just unfeasible."

'I have to help'

The committee also heard a submission by widow Linda Kennedy, 58, from Glasgow, who has had to borrow from her pregnant daughter and son to cover the shortfall in her housing benefit.

Her daughter Lyndsay Ferry, 29, told the committee: "My extra money would have gone to my baby, but I'm now in a position where I have to help my mum."

Mrs Bradley, 54, from Glasgow, told MSPs how Queen's Cross Housing Association staff suggested she take in a lodger to avoid her benefit being cut.

She added: "I would never take a stranger into my home.

"It has cost my family money financially to help me to move. Without them I wouldn't have been able to move and now I owe them money, otherwise I would have ended up homeless."

More on this story