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'Bedroom tax' set to hit Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale families
CONTROVERSIAL ‘bedroom tax’ cuts set to hit thousands of families have been slammed as a ‘shambles’.
More than 5,000 East Lancashire social housing tenants have received letters telling them they will have to find between £14 and £25 a week extra to stay in their homes from April 1 or move to smaller properties.
A total of 5,734 letters have been sent telling tenants of social housing landlords including Twin Valley Homes, Calico, Housing Pendle and Green Vale Homes that if they are a sole tenant or couple living in a two-bedroomed home they will see their housing benefit cut by 14 per cent or by 25 per cent for a three-bedroomed property.
Two children of the same sex under 16 will have to share a bedroom and two children of any sex under ten will have to do the same under the government’s new under-occupancy regulations which take effect next month.
Major housing associations have expressed concern about the new rules impact on their tenants and Labour politicians have branded it an attack on the poor and vulnerable.
They fear there are not enough one and two bedroomed properties to accommodate those facing the new charges.
Pendle Tory MP Andrew Stephenson and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith have defended the changes as vital to stop tenants who don’t need them having spare rooms while other families are forced to live in cramped and overcrowded accommodation in the same towns.
In Burnley 840 tenants will be affected; Rossendale 390; Pendle 600; Hyndburn 608; Ribble Valley 136; in Blackburn with Darwen 1,900 and in Chorley 900.
The new rules apply to all households where the tenant is of working age - from 16 to 61. The government has recently introduced a raft of exemptions including most foster carers; families with children serving in the armed forces and disabled people who need carers sleeping in every night - not those, such as our case study below, who need occasional overnight assistance.
Burnley Council leader Julie Cooper said: “This is a vindictive and malicious attack on the poorer and vulnerable by the government. They are forcing people to pay extra or leave their homes when there are not enough one and two bedroomed flats to go round.”
Hyndburn and Haslingden Labour MP Graham Jones said: “I do not think the Government understands the unnecessary pain this will cause. it will cause tremendous upheaval and stress and is based on the fallacy that the properties to move people into exist at all.
“There simply aren’t enough one and two bedroom homes to relocate people into.”
Rossendale Borough Labour leader Alison Barnes said: “It’s an attack on the incomes of those who cannot afford it and will cause many people misery whether they have to move or not.”
Mr Stephenson said: “We cannot allow a situation to continue where some families can’t find homes large enough to bring up their children properly while other people are subsidised for spare bedrooms they neither use or need.”
Blackburn with Darwen Labour council leader Kate Hollern described the complex concessions being introduced at a late stage as 'a shambles'.
Michael Birkett, chief executive of Calico which provides social housing in Burnley, said:”Roughly one in seven of our customers are currently under-occupying their homes; many of these are currently on very low incomes and will understandably struggle to pay the difference.”
Ian Clark, managing director of the Together Housing group, which includes Twin valley Homes in Blackburn with Darwen, Housing Pendle and Green Vale Homes in Rossendale, said: “While we can see the need to make better use of social housing stock, our concern is that with limited opportunities to downsize it will force many of our tenants to cut back on food, heating and other essentials in order to stay in their own homes.”
Disabled Burnley woman Jeanie Gentry has to find £89 a month or move from her three-bedroomed Burnley home to a flat elsewhere in the town. The 50-year-old, who has mobility problems, is worried about losing the support from neighbours which helps her cope with life on walking sticks. She is equally concerned about finding the extra £89 she will lose for two extra bedrooms at her current home. Ms Gentry, who has lived in the property for 15 years, said: “I don’t mind moving to the right flat near my daughter so she can help me when I need someone to stay overnight. I don’t just want to be dumped in a one-bedroomed flat miles from anyone I know. “At the moment I need a spare bedroom someone sometimes has to stay with me if my mobility is bad. There is a special rail outside the house and neighbours know about my problems and help. At the moment there isn’t a suitable flat for me. I’ll really struggle to find the extra cash to stay but it would be a nightmare for me to move away from my friends to somewhere where I’m out of place.”