‘Bedroom tax’ will hit 30,000 Westcountry households
The Government’s so-called “bedroom tax” will hit 30,000 poorer households in the region, it has been claimed.
The proposed Welfare Reform Bill has already been rejected by the House of Lords over a cap which would limit benefit payments to £26,000 a year.
Analysis of official figures suggest that measure alone could push some 6,000 children in the region into poverty.
Now the National Housing Federation has said tens of thousands of households in the region judged to be living in homes that are too large will be hit by cuts of up to 25 per cent in housing benefit.
Jenny Allen, from the federation in the South West, said: “This bedroom tax has been a serious concern for quite some time. Penalising South West families for under-occupying when they have nowhere to move to is simply unfair and unjust.
“We are urging Ministers to accept the amendment and vote for it to stand. Otherwise there will be disastrous implications for huge numbers of people already struggling to make ends meet.”
Under the current proposals, tenants who are judged to be “under occupying” their home by one bedroom will have their housing benefit reduced by 14 per cent. Where they are under occupying by two or more bedrooms the deduction is 25 per cent.
Analysis by the federation, using average rent figures broken down by MPs’ constituencies, shows that could cost people with one extra bedroom more than £500 a year. In Devon that could be as high as £607 in Torbay and in Cornwall £521 in Truro and Falmouth.
The federation said people would be forced to choose between going into debt, cutting back on essentials, or trying to move. With so few smaller homes available, many will not even have that choice.
It said many people in a variety of situations – grandparents who share the care of their grandchildren, families with two same-sex teenagers with their own bedrooms, and disabled tenants who need an adapted room to live an independent life – would will see their incomes cut if the bill passed unamended.
St Ives Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George said he would be voting against the coalition on the “bedroom tax”.
“I just feel that the pressures will result in many families being disrupted from what was a previously stable situation,” Mr George said last night.
“Hard-working families on low incomes will be penalised because of a poorly regulated and poorly managed housing system.
“There has been a complete failure by successive governments to build enough three and four-bedroom houses for families who find themselves in overcrowded accommodation.
“It is also not the fault of those who find themselves with a spare room who should have to pay the price for other peoples’ past failures.”
In December, members of the House of Lords opposed the Government, backing a cross-party amendment to exempt those families with one additional bedroom where there are no alternative properties for them to downsize to. It was one of seven welfare reform defeats for the Government in the Lords after peers went through the Government’s plan line by line.
The most prominent showdowns came over the Government’s £26,000-a-year benefits cap and plans to charge parents to access the Child Support Agency. A bishops’ amendment, backed by Labour peers, seeks to take child benefit out of the cap.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We have been very clear where we stand. The Lords’ amendments will be overturned when the Bill comes back to the Commons.”