Wakefield Council calls on government to axe ‘unfair’ bedroom tax

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Wakefield Council has urged the government to abolish its controversial “bedroom tax” which it said is causing misery for thousands of local people.

A motion proposed by Coun Graham Stokes to reverse the policy was carried at a meeting of full council on Wednesday, after all Labour councillors voted in favour.

Introduced in April, the bedroom tax, cuts housing benefit by an average of £14 per week for working-age people who are deemed to be “under-occupying” their homes.

Tenants affected are encouraged to look for smallerproperties, but WDH, which has 20,000 people on its waiting list, has just a handful of one-bedroom flats available.

Coun Stokes said the policy had already been “heart-breaking” for those affected, including 2,000 WDH tenants who had been left unable to pay their rent.

He said: “There are nowhere near enough smaller properties for people to move into. This is taking people out of the local economy and young people are having to move schools. It is causing hardship and distress.”

The nine Conservative councillors present at the meeting voted against the motion.

Coun David Hopkins said bedroom tax created a “level playing field” between people living in social housing and those in privately-rented accommodation.

And he said those struggling to pay should look at the council’s emergency rent fund, called discretionary housing payments (DHP).

He said: “People can also pay by increasing the hours that they work – or they can move house.”

There has been a rise of 454 per cent in DHP applications since April.

And Labour councillors said the fund wasn’t large enough to meet the needs of all of those struggling to pay.

Coun Stokes said the council hoped WDH could reclassify some homes to have a smaller number of bedrooms.

But WDH chief executive Kevin Dodd said bedroom tax was harmful to the econnomy, but that changes should not be introduced until the governmenthas rolled out the rest of its welfare reforms.

He said: “Wewill look at any option to reduce the impact of the bedroom tax on those affected, but we do not want to rush any particular change.”

Mr Dodd said 300 people found work through WDH employment schemes last year.

And he said the costs of implementing the tax could be spent on those schemes.

He said: “Let providers put a case to government to seek concessions on how resources can be used to maintain job creation opportunities, reduce Treasury expenditure and help the local economy.”