Anas: Labour will scrap bedroom tax

Anas SarwarA senior Labour MP has pledged that his party will scrap the so-called bedroom tax if it was in power in Westminster despite the uncertainty over leader Ed Miliband's plans for the benefit cut.

Speaking during a televised debate on STV, Scottish Labour's deputy leader Anas Sarwar MP said: "We have been clear: if we were in power tomorrow, we would abolish the bedroom tax."
Mr Miliband has yet to say whether he will propose a repeal of the under-occupancy charge, which deducts benefits from those deemed to have spare bedrooms, in Labour's manifesto for the next UK general election in 2015.

Commenting on Mr Sarwar's remarks, a UK Labour spokesman said: "We have been pretty consistent that we think the bedroom tax should be dropped and dropped now. But with so much uncertainty over the economy, we are certainly not writing our manifesto for 2015 today."

Labour attacked the policy in Scotland, where Mr Sarwar is MP for Glasgow Central, calling for a national ban on evictions, £50 million of Scottish Government cash to pay tenants' rent arrears and pledging not to evict anyone struggling with the charge in Labour council areas.

Launching the campaign on Wednesday, Scottish Labour welfare spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said a UK-wide repeal is under "active consideration" by the party, citing "newspaper speculation on when the announcement would be made, rather than whether".

Benefits policy is reserved to Westminster, meaning the devolved Scottish Government cannot unilaterally scrap the charge, although the SNP administration has introduced measures to "mitigate" its impact.

SNP MSP Linda Fabiani, a member of Holyrood's Welfare Reform Committee, said: "On Thursday night we had Labour's Scottish leader and deputy leader appearing simultaneously on different TV channels. One says they'll scrap it, the other doesn't seem to know.

"So, if Ed Miliband is actually leading Labour, he needs to give an immediate, unequivocal commitment: would Labour scrap the bedroom tax if they were to be elected in 2015? Yes or no?

"The SNP have been unequivocal. The bedroom tax would be scrapped in year one of an independent Scotland if we were elected to office."

Prime Minister David Cameron urged Labour to make its intentions clear at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.

He said: "The question is now for Labour. You have ranted and raved about the spare-room subsidy. Are you going to reverse it? Just nod. Are you going to reverse it? Yes or no? Absolutely nothing to say, and weak with it."

Scottish Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess accused Labour of "pure hypocrisy" and "political opportunism" at Holyrood yesterday.

"We are consistent on the bedroom tax. Labour have not been consistent with the bedroom tax," she said.

Where are Britain's highest tax bills?
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Anas: Labour will scrap bedroom tax
St Albans come in second on the list with a total income tax bill of £10,900 per person.
Windsor and Maidenhead came third with a total income tax bill of £10,200 per person.
The Surrey town of Guildford was fourth on the list with a total income tax bill of £9,830 per person.
England's capital city came fifth with a total income tax bill of £8,580 per person.
Wokingham has a total income tax bill of £7,490 per person. Putting it in sixth place.
Dacorum in Hertfordshire comes in joint sixth place with a total income tax bill of £7,490 per person.
The leafy towns of Reigate and Banstead have a total income tax bill of £7,000 per person.
Tonbridge and Malling take joint seventh spot with a total income tax bill of £7,000 per person.
Wycombe comes last in the top ten with a total income tax bill of £6,820 per person.

A small corner of leafy Surrey has taken the top spot in the league table of the highest income tax bills per person. Residents of Elmbridge pay an astonishing £1.18 billion in income tax every year. That puts a number of the major cities in the shade.
The leafy towns of Esher, Weybridge and Walton-on-Thames are filled with mansions, private estates, country clubs, golf courses, and riversides packed with millionaires. The proximity of Chelsea's training ground in Cobham has also brought well-paid sportsmen to the area.

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