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DWP: bedroom tax has saved Scottish taxpayers £42m

Cutting housing benefit for people deemed to have spare bedrooms has saved Scottish taxpayers £42 million, according to the UK Government.

Nearly 72,000 people in Scotland had their housing benefit cut in November 2013, a 7% reduction on the first month of the controversial policy, new Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures show.

The UK Government said it has removed the "subsidy" that taxpayers were providing for other people's spare rooms, but opponents say the benefit cut of between 14% and 25% is a "bedroom tax".

Housing benefit spending grew by 50% in Britain in just 10 years to reach almost £1.8 billion in Scotland alone, according to the UK Government.

New DWP figures released to mark the first anniversary of the policy reveal that 25,000 people are still living in overcrowded accommodation in Scotland.

People facing housing benefit cuts can avoid the reduction by moving to smaller accommodation or taking a lodger, or alternatively they could increase their earnings by getting a job, the UK Government said.

"The removal of the spare room subsidy is a vital reform that ensures the taxpayer no longer pays for people's spare bedrooms," it said.

"Tenants are taking action in a number of ways, which may include moving and using home swap services to finding work or increasing earnings."

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, said: "It was absolutely necessary that we fixed the broken system which just a year ago allowed the taxpayer to cover the £1 million daily cost of spare rooms in social housing.

"We have taken action to help the hundreds of thousands of people living in cramped, overcrowded accommodation and to control the spiralling housing benefit bill, as part of the Government's long-term economic plan.

"Our reforms ensure we can sustain a strong welfare safety net, and we are providing an extra £165 million next year to support the most vulnerable claimants."

Scottish Conservative welfare reform spokesman Alex Johnstone said: "This is a much-needed bonus for the taxpayer.

"But unfortunately, because of politically inspired opposition to this measure from both the SNP and Labour, we're not seeing the full benefits.

"If they actually embraced the policy we would see more large accommodation opening up, allowing families to escape over-crowded homes."

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Local government

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