Midlothian politicians voice poll tax style protest fears

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COUNCILLORS are worried that collecting the new Under Occupancy charges being introduced next April will lead to a situation similar to the poll tax collections in the late 1980s.

Midlothian Council is responsible for collecting an estimated £395,000 from those affected by this housing benefit change. Any money that is not collected would then have to come out of the council’s budget.

The under occupancy charge sets out a 14 per cent deduction in housing benefit for council and housing association tenants under occupying a home by one room, and 25 per cent for under occupying by two or more rooms.

However, the claimants will still receive their full payment from central government, with the local authority then tasked with collecting the deductions.

When informed of this by council officers recently, members of the Special Performance Review and Scrutiny Committee were concerned that people would simply refuse to pay it.

Councillor Russell Imrie (Lab) pictured, said: “Is the onus on the local authority in the first place? As people might refuse to pay and just say – ‘well, you gave me that property!’ How are we going to work this through? For the life of me I can’t understand how we will manage that.

“I’m worried that people will jump on the bandwagon. It could be like the poll tax. What measures are we going to put in place, as seriously, that’s going to happen.”

Read full story in the December 13 edition of the Midlothian Advertiser.