Thousands of North East families are facing a bedroom tax bill of almost £20m.
According to new figures, by August – four months after the controversial spare room subsidy policy was introduced – nearly 30,000 of the region’s households had been hit by the new fees.
Each faces losing out on an average of £679.14 in housing benefits each year – though the picture is worse for people in County Durham, Newcastle and Sunderland, which are among the top 10 hardest-hit areas in the UK.
The National Housing Federation claims that 51% of households affected by the bedroom tax were unable to pay their rent between April and June. Their North East external affairs manager Monica Burns called for the policy to be repealed.
“These new Government figures show that the bedroom tax is affecting thousands of people in the North East – for many, there isn’t even anywhere for them to downsize to. There simply aren’t enough smaller social homes available, and the cost of private rented housing is rising.
“The North East is particularly hard-hit, with the highest proportion of people living in social housing affected by the bedroom tax in the country. The Government says discretionary housing payments will help those who cannot downsize, but there isn’t anywhere near enough money.
“The bedroom tax is trapping many people in homes they can no longer afford and where they are struggling. It is unfair, badly designed, and must be repealed.”
A spokesman for the Department for Work & Pensions ( DWP) said that it has given an extra £5,382,375 in funding to councils to make discretionary payments to help those struggling to pay.
Northumberland has received £416,365, Newcastle £685,271, Durham £883,089, Gateshead £373,518, North Tyneside £331,993, South Tyneside £305,483 and Sunderland £658,202.
Hang on – so the government imposes this tax on the poorest sector of society, presumably to raise money. Then, via the DWP, gives over 5 million of it back in order to fund people who cant pay it. Who then give it straight back to the government. Eh ?
I make no claims to being a financial expert (which, on recent evidence of the Co-Op Bank, should put me in the frame for a top job in banking), but I cant help thinking “why not just scrap the tax ?”
It doesn’t seem to raise much cash, is focused on the worst off, and is hardly a vote winner. Perhaps the government should put its mind to all those non-tax-paying corporations and super-rich tax dodgers instead ? But I guess bullies always go for easy targets.
Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell (Lab) –
“The bedroom tax is raised by constituents time and time again, who are being penalised for a situation not of their own making and who simply can’t afford to pay.
“These new figures illustrate the appalling impact this pernicious policy is having on many thousands of families across the region – with the extra £680 per year an almost impossible ask for people on low incomes already struggling with a cost of living crisis.
“The policy makes no sense. There are nowhere near sufficient smaller properties for people to move to, and it therefore does nothing to address overcrowding.
“Or – for the thousands of disabled people affected – they clearly need an additional bedroom as it can often be totally impractical for a couple to share in these circumstances.”
Oh, if only I believed Labour would rectify the situation if they win the next election… sadly I no longer have any faith in that direction.