Call to axe bedroom tax as 2,361 in Plymouth will suffer
THE Government's new "bedroom tax" is flawed and must be ditched says city Cabinet member Mark Lowry.
Cllr Lowry said 2,361 people would be hit in Plymouth.
A household with one spare bedroom will see housing benefit cut by 14 per cent, and 25 per cent if it has two or more spare bedrooms. "These statistics are quite frankly shocking," Cllr Lowry said. "It's a case of pay up or move out."
He said there were not enough smaller houses for all of those affected if they choose to move.
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"I am appalled that this change targets individuals with disabilities and we could find ourselves in a position where we are forcing them out of their home."
Cllr Lowry said housing associations were reporting that there had been only a slight increase in housing exchange requests.
The Government has come in for fierce criticism over the changes, but argues that reform will save money and help deal with a housing shortage.
The National Housing Federation said yesterday that more than half of those affected were disabled. It claimed that financial assistance available to them would fail to cover the shortfall in lost benefit.
Pensioners and people living in temporary accommodation will not be affected by the changes.
People who need a spare room for an overnight carer are also exempt, and bereaved families will have a year before they are affected.
Catherine Brabner, for the federation, said: "The bedroom tax is flawed and will unfairly penalise thousands of people who have lived in their homes for years, raised families and contributed to their communities."
In Westminster yesterday party leaders again clashed over the impact of the changes.
Labour leader Ed Miliband asked the Prime Minister: "Will you admit that the vast majority of people who are hit by your bedroom tax will get no help from your hardship fund?"
But this was disputed by David Cameron, who said: "We say it is time to reform housing benefit and it is only fair that you treat people in social housing the same way as in private rented housing." He claimed Mr Miliband "has no proposals to do anything about welfare but just to put up borrowing".
Alison Seabeck, the Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View, said: "David Cameron's bedroom tax will hammer families in my constituency, who are already struggling to make ends meet, and could actually risk costing local taxpayers a fortune in higher private rents."
The council's Housing Options team can be contacted on 01752 305496. The council is running an advice open day at the Plymouth Guildhall today from 10am to 4pm.
The council and Plymouth Community Homes have produced a money advice booklet, which will be available at www.plymouth.gov.uk.
LETTER TO THE HERALD
In a letter to The Herald, housing association chiefs, including Clive Turner, of Plymouth Community Homes, right, attack the so-called bedroom tax, which comes into force on April 1.
FROM April 1, the bedroom tax – a cut to the financial support people on low incomes get towards their rent – comes into effect.
About 2,000 across Plymouth alone will be told to move into a smaller property or lose an average of £500 a year because they have a “spare” room.
Shockingly, about 1,300 of those affected are people with disabilities.
For these working-age families, finding at least another £40 a month will be incredibly difficult, if not impossible.
Many will have to choose between heating and eating.
Even those who want to downsize, can’t. There just simply aren’t enough smaller properties.
These are not families living a life of luxury. They are normal households with children who have their own rooms, separated parents who need another room to care for vulnerable children.
Disabled people will have spent years adapting another room to make it easier for them to get around and to look after their health.
Over the past year we have been working hard to prepare our residents who will be hit by the tax.
We are going door-to-door giving advice and support, where we can, helping them to move through mutual home exchanges.
But for some that won’t be enough, or a move will be impossible.
We represent five of the largest housing associations working in Plymouth. We urge the Government to look again at the impact on children and parents and protect anyone receiving disability living allowance from this tax.
Otherwise it will hit our communities hard – and we, along with our partners in Plymouth, will have to pick up the pieces.
In a letter to The Herald, housing association chiefs attack the so-called bedroom tax, which comes into force on April 1.
REPLY BY IDS
Iain Duncan Smith, right, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, defends his strategy for freeing up unused bedrooms
WHEN 9,182 households are stuck on a waiting list for social housing in Plymouth, there’s a big problem that needs addressing.
And it can’t be right that 15,000 households across the South West are living in an overcrowded home.
There’s nothing fair about making families wait and wait for a house that is big enough, while other households on benefits are allowed to live in homes that are too big for their needs, at no extra cost.
Many working families in Plymouth cannot afford the luxury of having spare bedrooms, and the Government cannot afford to pay for bedrooms that are not being used.
That’s why from April housing benefit claimants living in social housing with spare bedrooms will be expected to make a contribution towards the rent for those spare rooms.
On average, the extra charge for claimants will be £14 a week. Some people will decide to take up work or work a few more hours to cover the difference. Others will want to move to more appropriately sized accommodation or take in a lodger.
This change will bring housing benefit for social housing claimants in line with what happens in the private sector already.
Ending the spare room subsidy will help us get a better grip of our social housing – and give hope to those households in Plymouth who are currently squeezed into overcrowded homes.
Of course there will be situations where it would not make sense for people to move, or where personal circumstances mean that extra support will be necessary.
That’s why we have given £155million to local authorities to help with these cases. This includes £30 million targeted specifically at helping disabled people whose homes have been adapted and for foster carers.
Councils and housing associations across the country are getting ready for this reform by running housing swaps, and other innovative programmes.
We will be able to make better use of social housing in Plymouth, and help more families into their own home, whilst keeping the welfare budget under control.
At the same time we will make sure that people in difficult situations are protected. That’s fair.
Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, defends his strategy for freeing up unused bedrooms