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Bedroom tax was designed to hit the poor, say Labour
Only one in ten Bradford tenants hit by the ‘bedroom tax’ have moved to a smaller home – imposing steep housing benefit cuts on the rest.
Only 281 of 2,660 households in properties owned by the city’s largest housing association – and who were deemed to have spare bedrooms – have ‘downsized’.
It means 2,011 have lost up to 25 per cent of their housing benefit, under the strict new Government rules. The remainder have moved into jobs.
In addition, 1,038 of those tenants – just over half – have been plunged into arrears since the measure came in last year, an apparent insight into the hardship it has caused.
The figures, from the Incommunities association, are revealed amid fresh calls for a rethink of the controversial removal of the so-called ‘spare room subsidy’.
Across the country, only six per cent of tenants have moved home, – even less than the ten per cent that have done so in Bradford. In neighbouring Kirklees, the council said 2,043 households had been affected, of which 675 were in arrears. It could not say how many had downsized.
Furthermore, Work Minister Esther McVey admitted, for the first time publicly, that the Government had expected most tenants to face benefit cuts. Mrs McVey said the forecast was for only 30 per cent to find smaller properties, over five years. She argued that eight per cent had, so far.
Chris Bryant, Labour’s welfare spokesman, said: “This proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the bedroom tax was always designed as a tax on the poorest and most vulnerable.”
The removal of the ‘spare room subsidy’ cuts housing benefit by 14 per cent for one extra bedroom and 25 per cent where there are two.
Ministers had argued that forcing ‘underoccupying’ households to move would free up larger homes for families living in cramped conditions, as well as saving £465 million.
But Mrs McVey denied she was disappointed by the numbers, saying: “No, because it wasn’t that you had to move house - that was one of the options.”
Dave Dickens, director of income management at Incommunities – which took over the city council’s housing stock – said: “Our dedicated welfare reform team have been proactive in contacting all customers affected and offer a range of support.
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