St Albans council united against ‘bedroom tax’

St Albans City & District Council

St Albans City & District Council - Credit: Archant

A UNITED front against the controversial ‘bedroom tax’ has been shown by the district’s councillors who have made a rallying call for it to be suspended.

The tax, which is part of the Government’s welfare reform, could mean hundreds of social housing tenants in St Albans will have to downsize or face a cut in benefits if they are found to be under-occupying their home.

And that is why the Labour group called on council bosses to encourage the two local MPs to push for the scheme to be suspended at last week’s full St Albans district council meeting.

Cllr Dreda Gordon, who put forward the proposal, said: “They [MPs] have to think about the people it is going to affect and their lives and where are these people going to move to because there is not the one-bedroom and two-bedroom properties.

“This is not just about political point scoring; this is about trying to help some of the most vulnerable people in our community and district.”

The government wants to cut housing benefit by 14 per cent for those living in council or housing association properties deemed to have one extra bedroom and 25 per cent for those with two or more spare bedrooms.

Groups likely to be affected by the welfare shake-up, which comes into force from April 1, include foster carers, families with disabled children and couples who cannot share a bedroom for medical reasons.

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Cllr Gordon added: “It is a mini poll tax and it is as hated as the poll tax by people who can see how unfair and how unjust it is.”

Councillors also unanimously agreed to write to the Secretary of State outlining their concerns and request that if ‘bedroom tax’ is not suspended more resources are made available to give to people on benefits who are struggling to pay their rent.

In addition, they want housing associations to be proactive in supporting their tenants and the housing department to look at the individual situations of foster carers.

Kevin Thompson, chief executive of North Hertfordshire Homes which is the largest registered provider of social housing in Herts, expressed his opposition towards the impending changes.

Mr Thompson said: “It is a pretty insidious tax and it will cause more problems than the government is hoping to solve with this.”

He added: “We are willing to do our best to minimise the impact and maximise the amount of support we can give to people in this position.”