Plans to scrap ‘Bedroom Tax’ welcomed in Hartlepool

Joe Michna from CAB in Park Road.
Joe Michna from CAB in Park Road.

AN advice chief has welcomed news that the so-called Bedroom Tax could be scrapped.

MPs voted 306 to 231 to make sweeping changes to the tax, which hits people who claim council tax benefit in the pocket if they have rooms in their homes which are not occupied on a full-time basis.

The tax came into force in April 2013, meaning any tenants with one unoccupied room would have their benefits slashed by 14 per cent, with a 25 per cent reduction for anyone with two empty rooms.

Joe Michna, manager of Hartlepool’s Citizens’ Advice Bureau in Park Road, says moves to alter the controversial scheme would help ease the burden on many of the affected families in Hartlepool.

He said: “This has been an ongoing issue in Hartlepool since it was introduced last year, and we have dealt with a number of clients who have found it difficult.

“It came in so quickly and caught a lot of people by surprise.

“People quickly fell into rent arrears or experienced other financial difficulties as they struggled to make the payments.

“We also heard cases where money which would usually be used on household essentials was being spent to pay the shortfall caused by the Bedroom Tax.

“It was a big hit for a lot of people, and it was a large chunk of their weekly money that suddenly wasn’t available to them anymore.”

The new bill, which was raised last week, includes measures to exclude social housing tenants from the policy until they receive a “reasonable offer” of alternative accommodation with the “correct number of bedrooms”.

An exemption would also apply under the Affordable Homes Bill if a tenant needs an extra room for genuine medical reasons, or if the property has undergone substantial alterations to help them live there.

Despite having been part of the Government which introduced it, Liberal Democrat MPs joined Labour in voting for the Bill to progress to the next stage of the law-making process.

Across the North East, more than 37,000 homes were affected with many households finding themselves £700 worse off.

Mr Michna added: “It is obviously still to be decided, but it was good to hear that moves have been made to make changes and if the Bedroom Tax is altered or scrapped completely then that would lessen the burden on a lot of our clients.”