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I am an East Riding of Yorkshire and Bridlington Town Councillor elected to represent Bridlington South Ward. The views and posts on this site are my personal views and are not those of East Riding of Yorkshire Council or Bridlington Town Council. If you become a member of this Blog I will expect you to adhere to posting comments that are not offensive or illegal.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Bedroom Tax - who will it hurt most?


Yesterday I moved a motion in ERYC Chambers and this is what I said:

That this Council will not levy residents in council housing for under occupied properties if they have applied for a move to a property suitable for their requirements and the Council is unable to provide that property


This motion is not a debate about the rights or wrongs of National Policies but what we as a Council will decide in the interest of fairness for our residents who live in council properties and are on Housing Benefit.

The Welfare Reform Act gives the Government the power to introduce new size criteria (also known as ‘under-occupation penalty’ or ‘Bedroom Tax’) for housing benefit claims in the social rented sector. The criteria will mean that any working-age household deemed to be under-occupying their home will lose part of their housing benefit from April 2013.

 The size criteria in the social rented sector will restrict housing benefit to allow for one bedroom for each person or couple living as part of the household

Any household deemed to have more bedrooms than they require, as defined by the criteria, will lose a proportion of their housing benefit.

Examples of households who could be affected by the measure include:

Separated parents who share the care of their children and who may have been allocated an extra bedroom to reflect this. Benefit rules mean that there must be a designated ‘main carer’ for children, who receives the extra benefit

Foster carers because foster children are not counted as part of the household for benefit purposes

Parents whose children visit but are not part of the household eg members of the Armed Services

Families with disabled children

Disabled people including people living in adapted or specially designed properties. 

One “extra” bedroom under this inflexible scheme will mean a loss of 14% of housing benefit. 2 “extra” bedrooms will mean a loss of 25% of Housing benefit.

The funding provided by the Government for Discretionary Housing Payments is £374,000. It is estimated that the 1,200 council properties which are under occupied according to the social sector size criteria will in total lose an estimated £776,000 in housing benefit per annum. Therefore, the estimated shortfall between the Government funding for Discretionary Housing Payments and potential claims arising as a consequence of the social sector size criteria is over £400,000.

However, the estimated loss in housing benefit does not include the estimated  300 housing association properties in the East Riding which are deemed to be under occupied. These will also lose housing benefit but we as a Council do not have data on how much housing benefit is currently paid to these properties.

DHP money is also used to help tenants in private rented accommodation meet rent costs following a reduction in income, job loss, distress etc. So it cannot be assumed that all £374,000 would be available to help those in the social sector.
 
It is estimated that there will be a possible 100 affordable properties leaving a shortfall of 1100.

Our tenants will have to choose between leaving their homes and communities or face paying the difference. Those who make the choice of downsizing may not actually have that option as a suitable property may not be available.

I asked the Councillors in the chamber to support the motion but they decided to put forward  an amendment that offered "sympathy and "support" but nothing else. We could have put up to 2.5 times the amount in the DHP but choose not to. The Tories and Lib Dems voted for the motion which of course was passed.  The Labour Group voted against as we wanted more for our residents who will be put in inpossible situations.
This motion was seconded by Cllr Keith Moore who argued:
 “Although the intention behind this introduction of this bill was to save money many commentators predict it will generate costs rather than savings.  I believe this Council and the taxpayer stand to be worse off as our tenants are forced into the private rented sector”