When will ‘ENOUGH!’ really mean ENOUGH? POLL/Bedroom tax hits those tenants ‘whose only crime is to be poor’

Monica Burns, north east lead manager for the National Housing Federation, warns Berwick's poorest will be hit hard

 

Absolutely revolting: REBEL NOW!

Published on Friday 29 June 2012 12:05

PLANS to tax social housing tenants for ‘underoccupied’ bedrooms could hit Berwick harder than the rest of the country.

Monica Burns, the North East lead manager for the National Housing Federation (NHF), has outlined some concerns about the impact on the area and its implementation.

The Millfield resident says 1,171 Berwick households face a choice between moving or paying the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ on their spare rooms.

At present, Berwick ranks amongst the very cheapest constituencies in terms of average rent for social housing. But under the new scheme, Ms Burns says the most vulnerable tenants could have to find an extra £460 a year for their ‘underused’ bedroom, or be rehoused. That is the equivalent of nearly two months’ extra average rent per year.

Ms Burns believes there are other issues not yet addressed, particularly in an area with an ageing population.

She explained: “We worry about how the scheme will be rendered regarding people approaching retirement age. Those over the working age are exempted from the under-occupancy tax.

“But if they are two years from retirement, do we move them, or do we allow them to ‘grow’ into their houses until they are exempt?

“Moving families would be a very costly exercise. It costs around £3,000 to move a single household, so that’s £6,000 to resolve one situation.

“There are plans for disabled people to receive payments to help them meet the under-occupation tax, but that is also flawed. The plan is for the payments to be made at the discretion – and ‘discretion’ is the word – of local authorities. And it would be assessed annually, so in effect people would be going cap in hand every year for the right to stay in their own home.

“There are also fears that future governments could reverse or change the execution of the tax. Social housing tenants feel they are reduced to a political football. Like our chief executive said, the only crime these people have committed is to be poor.”

The NHF has asked for assurances that rates will not increase if the tax does not make the expected savings in the welfare budget. It feels the Government’s plan doesn’t take into account people’s real-life situations.

“One-bed flats just aren’t available, especially not in this area,” added Ms Burns. “So Berwick Borough Housing has a good selection of two- and three-bedroom houses, but few options if it came to rehousing ‘under-occupiers’.”

There are fears that a constituency like Berwick might spiral into a ‘tsunami’ of debt and difficulty when the new measures kick in April.

Ms Burns agreed: “People use words like ‘a perfect storm’, and it’s true.”

Government plans to remove housing benefits for those under 25 could also contribute to Berwick’s ‘perfect storm.’

With so many young people leaving the area and returning sporadically to live with their parents, many are dependent on spare bedrooms.

Currently, there are no plans to protect spare rooms occasionally used in this way.

Amendments have been made to the under-occupancy tax in order to preserve bedrooms that permit overnight ‘access’ visits by children following marital breakdowns; bedrooms of children who require care during the night; and rooms for couples who have to sleep separately for medical reasons.

An additional bedroom is also allowed where it enables a family to foster children.

The Berwick Advertiser

Comments
  • jeffrey davies (@jeffrey33333) July 18, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    welcome to tory britain where we all be living in tents and only those who can afford to live in brick built buildings jeff3

  • sue mccafferty July 18, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    This is very misleading; there have been no amendments to the act other than to allow a room if an overnight carer is needed. That is the only concession. Lord Best did win an amendment in the Lords which would have exempted vulnerable groups including war widows and people with a disability from the tax but, as with all the other amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill, the goverment moved the goalposts and pleaded financial privelege. The report is right in that you can claim help with the shortfall but this is largely reserved for people who have significantly adapted their homes due to disability and is discretionary . This tax will create widespread hardship for many. Lets not forget that the reason the housing benefit bill has gone up so much is because of unscrupulous private landlords, not because of people living in modest social housing that they’ve brought up their kids in and deserve to be left to live in peace.

  • PennyL July 19, 2012 at 11:41 am

    In three bedroom houses the third bedroom is often a box room suitable for a young child but not for a teenager or adult or elderly relative. There should be a minimum size for rooms that count.

  • kasbah July 19, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    This government is a complete and utter shambles- I honestly believe they have no idea at all about hardship and real lives. They simply don’t care. This move is yet another utter disgrace and attack on ordinary people with no planning and thinking through re. the consequences. The UK is becoming like Eastern Europe where many people live in pitifully small overcrowded conditions with only the elite having decent housing.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more riots before long and it will be the Government who will have triggered them. And it will be the government who condemns the rioters.
    Sickening immoral politicians.

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