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Bedroom tax hurts half those it targets
COUNCIL tenants are struggling to pay their bills following the introduction of the bedroom tax in Swindon.
About 1,000 homes have been affected by the Welfare Reforms Act, which came into effect in April. Figures have revealed approximately 54 per cent of them are in arrears.
The act means tenants have to pay a penalty for under-occupation – with people being charged for spare bedrooms.
Swindon Council was owed £108,000 before the so-called bedroom tax was brought in, but that figure has now spiked at £135,000 for rent arrears.
Chairman of Swindon’s Tenants Campaign Group Martin Wicks said the tax was unfairly hitting people already struggling to survive.
“It’s not a matter of these people not managing their accounts properly; they simply do not have the money,” said Mr Wicks.
“These figures are an indication that people are being put under intolerable financial pressure, especially if they are on job seekers allowances – they have no way of paying the extra costs when they’re struggling to live on £71 a week.”
A petition with more than 2,000 signatures will be presented to full council either this month or the next, to get councillors to vote on lobbying the Government to scrap the bedroom tax and asking if a safeguard could be brought in to make sure people in arrears because of the bedroom tax will not be evicted.
The authority brought in discretionary housing payments for residents struggling to cope with rents. But Mr Wicks was concerned that when the £400,000 was spent people would be left without support.
“I’m not sure if these people who have been given funding will continue to,” he said.
“If they’re not then that’s going to have an impact on arrears as well.”
But council officals say the figures are not as bad as they first appear. Since 2012 the authority has monitored tenants who have downsized and 48 tenants have moved by mutual exchange and 64 have moved by transferring.
“Our rent collection performance is slightly down on this time last year, by just over one per cent,” said a council spokesman.
“We consider that this slight reduction is because of the support that we have given to tenants.
“The support includes working closely with tenants affected to help them downsize where possible. We are also offering tenants budgeting advice and are helping them apply for discretionary housing payments.
“We have been extremely proactive as an authority. Eviction is always a last resort and we always encourage tenants to engage and work with us so it is avoided.”
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