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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

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Bedroom tax will hit 4,000 west Cumbrian families

Nearly 4,000 families in west Cumbria face being hit by the controversial bedroom tax.

Martin Telford photo
Martin Telford

Figures revealed by the News & Star show 2,000 households on housing benefit in Copeland and 1,700 in Allerdale will be hit by the charge, which will affect those in homes with more bedrooms than occupants.

Workington Citizen’s Advice Bureau said it had seen a surge in the number of people going to them for help and they expect things to get worse ahead of its April introduction.

Both Workington MP Tony Cunningham and Copeland’s Jamie Reed, have hit out at the tax, describing it as “absolute madness” and “ill-thought out”.

It means people in houses with more bedrooms than occupants face a benefit cut or the prospect of moving to a smaller property. The problem has been compounded by a massive shortfall of available one and two-bedroom houses across west Cumbria, which also contains some of the country’s most deprived wards.

Martin Telford, manager of the CAB Allerdale, said: “A significant number of people are going to beaffected very seriously.

“We have a had a lot of people expressing concerns, and I think that concern is rising. It’s the realisation that there’s a whole raft of other changes coming through, from disability living allowance to employment support allowance. This is the biggest reform of social security since the Second World War.”

Mr Cunningham branded the spare-room tax “one of the craziest taxes ever thought up”.

He said: “It is on a level with the 19th century window tax. Whoever has dreamed this up doesn’t live in the real world.

“I have a constituent in a three-bedroom house who has been waiting three years for a one-bedroom flat to become available but there isn’t one, so what does she do? She’s got to pay the additional tax. Is it her fault? Of course not. There is a shortage of one-bedroom properties.

“What happens if there isn’t a one-bedroom property in your village or community? Are you expected to move to another town? What happens when a house has been specially adapted for a disabled person?”

Mr Cunningham said he knew a married couple who couldn’t share the same bedroom because one of them had a severe medical problem. He added that the tax would also affect returning soldiers whose parents want them to stay in the spare room.

Copeland Jamie Reed MP has estimated that the tax will hit 2,000 families in his constituency.

He said: “It is clear that the consequences of this ill-thought-out tax on families will be enormous. The many letters I have received from constituents about this shameful policy are just the tip of the iceberg.

“Each Copeland family affected by this will be forced by Government to find an extra £500 a year to keep their home.

“Many families will not be able to avoid this tax by moving house, as there just aren’t the homes available for people to move into – the Government’s own policy assessment shows this.”

Home Group said it had 3,364 properties in Allerdale and estimated more than 1,700 are under occupied.

Margarita Morrison, director of customer service, said: “Home Group along with the National Housing Federation lobbied the Government during consultations on welfare reform, warning them of unintended consequences of targeting those under occupying.”

Amanda Pyper, head of Derwent and Solway, said: “The new under-occupancy rules will be one of the first major changes that tenants will experience and it is a huge challenge for tenants and housing associations alike. We have already found that many people want to stay in their homes and pay the extra rent.”

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