Alliance Communities spokesperson Trevor Lunn MLA has called on Parliament to extend mitigations offsetting the impact of welfare reform in Northern Ireland.
Mr Lunn said a recent joint report from the House of Commons Work and Pensions and Northern Ireland Affairs Committees, which recommended continuing mitigations for a further four years from 2020, showed the best approach to take.
Mitigations, which ends in March 2020, was originally put in place to provide a range of supplementary payments and flexibilities. Unless they are extended, many local households will lose that financial support.
“The Committees recognised the mismatch between the public sector housing stock and the housing needs of those living in them, where the bedroom tax would have a disproportionate impact in Northern Ireland compared to other parts of the UK,” said Mr Lunn.
“The Department for Communities estimates ending mitigation here would cost around 34,000 households an average of £12.50 each per week, some much more. Even if the Executive was restored in the next few months, there will not be enough time to properly consider the issues for the cliff edge deadline of March 31 when the mitigations are due to end.
“The report is clear about the need for the UK Government to legislate in the absence of a functioning Assembly. There is now a clear precedent for such action following their interventions on equal marriage, termination of pregnancy and payments to seriously injured victims of the troubles, as well as their bringing forward legislation to implement the recommendations of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry.
“I would prefer these decisions to be taken in the Assembly but we cannot wait any longer. Therefore I am calling on the Secretary of State to recommend Parliament proceeds with extending mitigations. The NIO is due to respond to the joint report in the near future – I hope they agree with me on the way forward.”