Thursday, 7 March 2013

Labour brands ‘bedroom tax’ in county ‘chaotic and unfair’

Thousands of people on a low income in Northumberland face the prospect of a ‘bedroom tax’ in April at the same time that people earning over £1m/year are due to get a tax cut of almost £100,000 per annum.

The new rules say that people only need one bedroom for each of the following: a couple, a person who is not a child, two children of the same sex, two children who are under 10, any other child and a carer providing overnight care. If you have an extra bedroom under these rules you will lose 14% of your housing benefit (25% if you have two extra bedrooms).

Nationally 660,000 people will be affected. The Government says people will be able to move to smaller properties but councils and housing associations say there are not enough. So a couple with two children aged 8 and 4 who live in a 3-bedroom flat face a 14 per cent cut in their housing benefit because the rules say they are ‘under occupying’. To avoid the penalty, they are forced to move to a privately rented 2-bedroom flat. They lose their security of tenure because - with private tenancies - their new landlord can evict them without a reason after just 6 months. Their private rent for a 2-bedroom flat is higher than their old rent for a 3-bedroom property and the housing benefit bill to the taxpayer goes up.

The council needs to be absolutely clear about how many people in Northumberland this affects otherwise our discretionary housing fund will be under further pressure as we look to prop up this mindless Condem policy.

It's just bad social policy and it does not make economic sense.

Source: ‘Council has ‘lost’ 1825 families hit by ‘bedroom tax’ – Grant Davey
The Labour party in Northumberland have uncovered a ‘major black hole’ as the Liberal run administration in County Hall struggle to come to terms with the impact of the so called ‘bedroom tax’. Figures show that families will face penalties of £496 per year for 14% ‘under occupancy’ by one bedroom and a whopping 25%, £886 per year for those who ‘under occupy’ by two bedrooms
The ‘tax’ brought in by the coalition government to tackle ‘under occupancy’ has been branded as ‘a chaotic and unfair tax on struggling families’ by Labour in Northumberland.
The council estimated the ‘charge’ would hit 3,397 families across Northumberland but Labour has uncovered a ‘hidden group’ who the council didn’t know existed. Figures released by the National Housing Federation show that the actual figure impacted by the bedroom tax is 5,222.
The council now face accusations that ‘they’ve lost control and have seriously underestimated the impact of the tax on Northumberland’.
The storm over the impact of the tax also extends to the lack of affordable housing available in the county as the council also acknowledged in its Housing Needs Survey that it would need to build 240 homes every year for decades to meet the need for affordable housing.
Labour are demanding council leader Jeff Reid makes a statement clarifying the true council’s true position on the impact of the bedroom tax and its impact on the recently agreed council budget.
Labour group leader Grant Davey said
‘The council has ‘lost’ 1825 families while it has been preparing for the impact of the bedroom tax. How can we have confidence that the council is ready for the ‘tsunami of misery’ unleashed by this regressive tax? Jeff Reid needs to get a grip on his council and come clean about the true impact of this raid on the living standards of people living in social housing’.   
Notes to Editors
Attached letter to Ronnie Campbell MP which gives the number affected by the ‘under occupancy’ charge as 3,397 across Northumberland
Source: See attached letter
Research for NHF shows that in
1.    Wansbeck – 1355 households will be affected
2.    Blyth – 1321 households will be affected
3.    Berwick – 1335 households will be affected
4.    Hexham – 1211 households will be affected
Total affected – 5,222

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