Thousands set to suffer under bedroom tax
MORE than 6,500 people in the Bristol area will be hit by the new "bedroom tax" when it is introduced next month, it has been claimed.
The Coalition Government is introducing the tax to reduce the number of spare bedrooms in households to ease the chronic housing shortage. Householders who claim benefit towards rented accommodation will lose some of their money if they are deemed to have any spare bedrooms.
In Bristol, council tenants with one spare bedroom will lose £11 a week and for those in low rent housing association accommodation, £16.64. Council tenants with two spare bedrooms would lose £21 a week and housing association tenants, £29.27 a week.
In financial terms this means a reduction of £3.3 million in housing benefit payments and therefore rental contribution.
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The city council estimates 4,714 households will be affected. Of these, 3,639 rent from the council and 1,075 from registered social landlords.
Figures from the National Housing Federation claim that 3,753 people in Bristol will be affected, along with 1,063 in South Gloucestershire, 933 in Bath & North East Somerset and 806 in North Somerset – a total of 6,555.
Bristol mayor George Ferguson last night called for an urgent review of the changes. He said he wanted a cross-party working group to be set up to look at ways in which those hardest-hit by changes to welfare benefits could be helped.
But he said no extra money had been made available to achieve this and that "creative solutions would have to be found".
Mr Ferguson said: "This move has raised widespread and profound concern about the impact on some of those least able to afford it.
"Bristol City Council has a duty to protect those who are most in need, who are most vulnerable, at a time when many are already facing real hardship. I want a cross-party working group to look at what the effect of the change will be and how we can best help those who will be hardest-hit."
Guy Poultney. Cabinet Member for Homes, Planning and Regeneration, said: "It is vital that all parties in the city work together on this in order to ensure that we do all that we can to offset the potentially devastating impact of this change and protect some of the poorest people in Bristol."
Thangam Debbonaire, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Bristol West, raised the issue with Mr Ferguson earlier this week, saying that the changes would hit 1,000 people in the constituency.
She said: "Two thirds of the households hit are home to someone with a disability, and the families of soldiers and foster parents will also be hit."
She said the tax "could actually risk costing local tax-payers a fortune in higher private rents and covering the cost of driving people out of their homes".
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said there were a large number of people in council houses which had more bedrooms than they actually needed – something not allowed in privately rented homes under housing benefit rules.
He said: "What we're saying to them is you can stay where you are, but if you do you'll have to pay more."