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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Glasgow homeless hit for council tax payments

April 15 2011
Council to charge for water and sewerage

Glasgow City Council is set to charge its homeless population water and sewerage charges from next month, as the local authority struggles to cope with a near 50 per cent cut in housing benefit from the central government.

For the majority of homeless accommodation, which falls under Council Tax band A, the annual bill for 2011/2012 would be £262.38, payable in 10 monthly installments.

The council says it is required by law to collect these charges on behalf of Scottish Water. But there are fears that the move will push homeless people further in poverty, since they are already required to use their own money to pay for meals, heating, lighting and hot water while in temporary accommodation.

It has even led to fear that the city may be forced back into a situation of using larger hostel-style accommodation, where charges would not apply.

Labour Councillor Matthew Kerr, of Craigton, said: “It is unbelievable how badly Glasgow has been let down by the Westminster government. We explained to them exactly how Glasgow would be singled out by the changes in housing benefit but our advice has been blatantly ignored.”

Mr Kerr, who is also the council’s executive member for social care, called for the government to reconsider. He added: “Glasgow is now effectively being punished for implementing stock transfer and giving power to local housing associations.The vast majority of our homeless accommodation is now through the housing associations but funding for that accommodation has been cut in two.

‘Yet a 100 per cent subsidy for our hostel accommodation remains fully intact. It is absurd that central government policy actually favours hostel accommodation.The large scale hostels didn’t work. They reinforce the problems that led to homelessness, institutionalising many people simply because they lost their home. “Glasgow spent much of the previous decade closing them down but we are being pointed straight back in that direction.The government is being breathtakingly short-sighted and has shown no understanding of homelessness in Glasgow.”

A full exemption is still available if the council property is completely occupied by students, young persons under the age of 18, people with severe impairment of “intelligence and social functioning,” and members of visiting forces.

There are currently about 2,000 temporary furnished flats around the city for homeless people, provided mostly by GHA and other local housing associations. The spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Glasgow’s arrangements for temporary accommodation are a matter for the council.”