Thursday 26 September 2013

Protection from Eviction (Bedroom Tax) (Scotland) Bill proposal and consultation launched

A bill that would protect victims of the bedroom tax has been lodged with the Scottish Parliament by Scottish Labour's social justice spokesperson Jackie Baillie. The bill proposal and consultation paper can be viewed online here

Govan Law Centre (GLC) has assisted in the drafting of the Bill proposal and accompanying documents. The proposed legislation will ensure that anyone who falls into arrears as a result of the bedroom tax will not be evicted from their home. 

The bill has been backed by Govan Law Centre, the Church of Scotland, the STUC, the Poverty Alliance, both the Bedroom Tax Campaigns in Scotland and many others besides. 

Jackie Baillie said: "The bedroom tax is unfair and unworkable, it doesn't make financial sense and is targeting some of the most vulnerable tenants in our communities. David Cameron should end this unjust policy right now. We have an opportunity to make it clear that all victims of the bedroom tax, whether council or housing association tenants, will be protected from eviction from their homes." 

Tommy McMahon, Govan Law Centre's Chairman said: "GLC fully supports Jackie Baillie proposed Bill which would prevent bedroom tax rent arrears being used to evict Scottish secure tenants. It makes no economic sense to evict tenants, disabled people and children for bedroom tax arrears when they cannot downsize to a smaller property in practice, obtain a smaller specially adapted home, or find an extra £50 per month from breadline benefits. The Scottish Parliament has the power to protect tenants from the bedroom tax and it's time to act."

The Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, Convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland said: “At this year’s General Assembly, the Church of Scotland agreed to press the Scottish Government for legislation guaranteeing there would be no evictions for rent arrears accrued simply by failing to make the additional payments caused by the “bedroom tax”.  Whilst we recognise that local authority budgets are being continually squeezed, forcing those who cannot afford these additional payments  to carry the burden for this flawed  policy is not fair.  We urge the UK Government, Scottish Government and local authorities to work together to find a more equitable solution.  I welcome Jackie Baillie’s proposals, but with the reversal of the “bedroom tax” policy, they would not be needed in the first place.”

Peter Kelly of the Poverty Alliance said: "It is hard to underestimate the negative impact that the bedroom tax is having on individuals and communities across Scotland. Not only are people struggling to get by on already reduced incomes, but now many are fearful about being evicted from their homes. In this context we must explore every opportunity to protect individuals from the impact of the Bedroom Tax. We therefore welcome the launch of Jackie Baillie’s Members Bill and would encourage organisations and individuals to respond to the consultation. Every effort must be made to protect individuals and communities from this disastrous policy."

Dave Moxham, Deputy General Secretary of the STUC said: “STUC wants the Bedroom Tax repealed by Westminster and action in Scotland to prevent tenants getting into debt.  But STUC is also ultimately opposed to the eviction of Scottish tenants whose arrears are a consequence of the Bedroom Tax.  The Scottish Parliament has the power to act on this by supporting Jackie Baillie’s Bill and in so doing reinforce its opposition to this iniquitous and inhumane measure.”

Gail Morrow of the Scottish Anti-Bedroom tax Federation said: "We have supported the Govan Law Centre petition, and helped it to gain over 5000 signatures. Now that there is a member’s bill based on it, put forward by Jackie Baillie MSP, the actions called for by the petition are one step closer to being acted upon. This will remove the threat of eviction from the thousands of people who worry about paying for basics such as food and heating. The bedroom tax is a horrible piece of legislation, forced upon us by the Westminster government. In Scotland, we don't have the power to repeal the bedroom tax, but we do have the power to remove the worst effect of it - the threat of eviction." 

Alan Wyllie of the No2 Bedroom Tax campaign said: “The Scottish Government should be leading on this issue and taking a stand against the bedroom tax. We support this Bill because it would remove the fear of eviction for thousands of bedroom tax victims across Scotland. However the Scottish Government must also pledge to fund the £50m ‘bedroom tax shortfall’ so council and housing association budgets don’t have to pay the price for this cruel tax.”

Cllr Mark Macmillan, Leader of Renfrewshire Council said:
"Jackie Baillie and Scottish Labour are to be congratulated on bringing forward measures today to protect tenants who are being pushed into debt because of the bedroom tax.  Scottish Councils can commit to no evictions policies just now – but over 40% of tenants in Scotland live in housing association properties.  Councils cannot protect these people and we need the Scottish Government to act decisively now to protect this group of tenants."


How to change your bank and personal banking problems in the UK

This month UK banks introduced a new '7 day switching' (seven working days) guaranteed service which means you can now change banks in a similar way to switching electricity or gas suppliers. All of your direct debits are automatically switched and payments redirected for 13 months. If anything goes wrong the bank will refund any charges. How does it work in practice?

GLC's Principal Solicitor, Mike Dailly joined BBC's Money Box Live's panel in London to discuss switching personal current accounts, along with problems with personal current accounts, unauthorised payments, bank charges, overdrafts, ethical current accounts, joint accounts, PPI, packaged bank accounts and CPP products. Also on the panel were Craig Donaldson, CEO of Metro Bank, and Emma Cocksedge, Senior Product Manager with First Direct. You can listen to the show again on the BBC's iPlayer here.

Sunday 22 September 2013

Glasgow fights back against predatory payday lenders

Payday lenders are under attack in Glasgow like nowhere else in the UK, writes Phillip Inman, Economics Correspondent of The Observer and The Guardian. 

Without waiting for Westminster politicians to tackle the burgeoning instant loan industry, Glasgow City Council has banned all access to Wonga and its lookalikes in libraries and colleges. Glasgow's trading standards officers tour shopping parades to check on offers for loans agreements and APRs that breach the Consumer Credit Act.

Mike Dailly, Principal Solicitor of Govan Law Centre, is challenging the contracts that allow payday lenders to snatch their customers' bank-account funds, while also defending people who, in the most extreme cases, take out £200 loans only to find their home being repossessed.
The crackdown coincides with the biggest promotion of credit unions anywhere in the UK. As an alternative to banks, these unions may conjure up an old-fashioned image in the minds of many people, but in Glasgow they are taking to the high street and can be found inside the swankiest shopping centres. One in four Glaswegians now have a credit union account. 
According to the council treasurer Cllr Paul Rooney, this go-it-alone approach is necessary to scale down an annual £57m binge on payday loans, door-to-door credit and pawnbrokers that affects one in five of the city's population. In November, the council will begin allocating credit union accounts to new secondary school pupils and handing them £10 toward their savings.  Read the full story in The Observer here.


Friday 20 September 2013

BBC Radio 4's Money Box discussion of successful tribunal challenges to bedroom tax decisions

BBC Radio 4's Money Box has discussed the issue of successful first tier tribunal challenges to the bedroom tax (Saturday, 14 September 2013). You can listen to GLC's Principal Solicitor explain the implications of the Fife Law Centre cases decided by Tribunal Judge Simon Collins Q.C on the BBC iPlayer. There is also a reference to current challenges for disabled tenants and occupiers based on unlawful discrimination and ECHR caselaw. The discussion starts 19 mins into the show on the BBC iPlayer here. GLC is in the process of updating its 'Bedroom Tax Toolkit' to take on board the lastest case law developments - more details as soon as possible.

Thursday 5 September 2013

Govan Law Centre seeks Trainee Solicitor

Govan Law Centre is seeking a new Trainee Solicitor to join its award winning legal team.  The role will include defending evictions and mortgage repossessions as part of our new Prevention of Homelessness City Rights Hubs in Glasgow City, along with undertaking work in our Govanhill Law Centre office, working with the Roma community and EU migrant workers.

The new post will also have scope to undertake legal work within our national Education Law Unit, which provides expert advice and representation in the field of Scots education law. There may also be an opportunity to undertake Scottish Parliamentary law reform and social justice campaign work. We believe this is a fantastic opportunity for someone who has a demonstrable passion for social justice in Scotland.

Please send CV and a relevant covering letter to: Mike Dailly, Principal Solicitor at Govan Law Centre, 18-20 Orkney Street, Glasgow, G51 2BZ or Closing date noon, Friday 27 September 2013. No recruitment agencies necessary thank-you. 

Govan Law Centre is a Registered Scottish Charity SC030193 And aims to be an Equal Opportunities Employer. You must hold, or be entitled to hold, a valid Entrance Certificate from the Law Society of Scotland to apply for this post, in relation to a proposed start date of October/November 2013.


Wednesday 4 September 2013

Govan Law Centre to draft Bill to prevent vulnerable Scots being evicted for bedroom tax arrears

Glasgow's Govan Law Centre (GLC) is delighted to announce that it's 'No Evictions for Bedroom Tax Arrears petition' will now be taken forward as a Member's Bill in the Scottish Parliament. The sponsoring member is Jackie Baillie, the Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Welfare and MSP for Dumbarton. GLC has agreed to provide full legal and policy support in the drafting of the proposed legislation and accompanying documents.

'Under-occupancy deductions' are losing tenants of councils and housing associations in Scotland £12 per week on average, with some tenants losing as much as £22 per week in housing benefit. Around 105,000 households in Scotland are affected by the bedroom tax, of which 80% contain a person with a disability.

When it comes to Scottish rent arrears eviction actions in sheriff courts, often the success or failure of a tenant in preventing eviction will turn on a few pounds per week, for example the standard payment for arrears direct is £3.55 per week. Accordingly, £12 to £22 per week being deducted from rent payments under the bedroom tax creates the perfect storm for a major increase in evictions and homelessness in Scotland, as tenants are unable to downsize or find extra money from very low incomes.

Govan Law Centre's Chairman, Tommy McMahon said: "Govan Law Centre has suggested a small amendment to section 16 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 which would prevent 'bedroom tax rent arrears' being used to establish or justify a crave for eviction, and instead the landlord could obtain a payment decree for these 'type of arrears', and pursue them an ordinary debt".

"We are very grateful that Jackie Baillie MSP has agreed to champion this law reform proposal, and stand up for Scotland's most vulnerable tenants. It makes no economic sense to evict tenants, disabled people and children for bedroom tax arrears when they cannot downsize to a smaller property in practice, obtain a smaller specially adapted home, or find an extra £50 per month from breadline benefits. The Scottish Parliament has the power to protect tenants from the bedroom tax and it's time to act'.

GLC is also supporting the calls - along with Shelter Scotland and many others - on the Scottish Government to find £50m for social landlords to off-set the impact of the bedroom tax.