SDLP Social Justice Spokesperson Mark H Durkan has said Sinn Féin’s support for the bedroom tax is once again putting people in the North at risk.
He was speaking after Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill called for the bedroom tax to be binned.
Mr Durkan welcomed the party’s acceptance that the tax puts vulnerable people in the North at risk after they previously insisted it didn’t apply here.
Around 1,200 households currently lose out on payments as a result of loopholes in welfare mitigations.
The Foyle MLA said:
“It wasn’t that long ago that Sinn Féin, DUP and Alliance MLAs lined up to hand our welfare powers to the Tories, knowing full well that it would mean people here would have support cut and would fall victim to the bedroom tax. The SDLP warned then that putting these measures in legislation was leaving vulnerable people exposed to it regardless of what temporary mitigation measures might be put in place. Despite Sinn Féin’s spin, around 1,200 households have lost out as a result of loopholes which see them lose out on mitigation payments when they move home or due to a benefit cap.
“Sinn Féin representatives publicly stated ‘categorically, without reservation, unambiguously there will be no bedroom tax’, despite voting to bring it in. This is clear evidence that Sinn Féin cannot be trusted when it comes to ensuring the protection of vulnerable people across the North. They talk about opposing cuts and then turn around and vote for them.
“People deserve better than this double speak. Since the Executive returned we have been calling on Minister Hargey to bring forward mitigations to ensure nobody is left paying bedroom tax despite many reassurances and warm words from the minister we have yet to see any action. Time and time again this Sinn Féin minister is found wanting, she can find millions of pounds to subsidise wealthy golf clubs and royal palaces, while ordinary people are plunged deeper into poverty.
“And now we have Michelle O’Neill out opposing measures her party has been complicit, through their own incompetence, in inflicting on people here. It is imperative that Minister Hargey brings forward legislation without further delay to at least undo some of the damage that the Tories aided and abetted by Sinn Féin and their partners in the DUP have inflicted upon working class communities across the North. Sinn Féin say ordinary people are facing a cliff-edge on bedroom tax, they created the cliff when it suited them and now they are warning people about the consequences of their own decision.”