Town Tory sees Cameron over ‘bedroom tax’

Councillor Ray Wells
Councillor Ray Wells

A HARTLEPOOL councillor has been given assurances that town residents won’t be “unduly affected” by the controversial ‘bedroom tax’ during a reception at Number 10.

Conservative group leader Ray Wells raised important issues facing Hartlepool when he met Prime Minister David Cameron and Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, at the event for party group leaders.

During his encounter with the PM, he raised concerns about the impact of the new ‘bedroom tax’ and informed Mr Cameron the town was due to hold a by-election.

Hundreds of households are set to be hit in the pocket under plans which will see people’s housing benefit cut if they are under-occupying their homes.

Coun Wells was pointed in the direction of Mr Pickles, who assured him that town residents wouldn’t be “unduly affected” by the changes.

Coun Wells, who represents the Rural West ward, said: “I mentioned the concerns regarding the bedroom tax and Mr Cameron pointed me in the direction of Mr Pickles to who I expressed concerns from Hartlepool residents and the Hartlepool Conservative Group.

“He assured me that safeguards are in place which will prevent people from being unduly affected by the new regulations.

“I have got it from the horse’s mouth that people in Hartlepool would not be unduly affected.”

Housing Hartlepool figures reveal 1,048 of their tenants – including 450 families – will see housing benefit slashed with the tenants having to make up the difference.

Households’ under occupancy will see their benefit slashed by either £13 a week, for one bedroom, or £22 for two bedrooms.

From April 2013, the Government expects tenants to make a contribution towards the rent if they are living in accommodation which is larger than they need in the same way they say that housing benefit claimants living in the private sector do.

Residents can downsize, but housing bosses say there is not enough smaller houses for people to move into.

The changes do not apply to residents of pensionable age.

Coun Wells met the PM on Monday at 5.30pm and described him as “extremely relaxed” during the informal reception.

Mr Cameron gave a speech about the difficult decisions the Government has had to make due to the current economic climate before mixing with the various group leaders.

As well as concerns over the bedroom tax, Coun Wells also informed the PM that a by-election was due to take place in Hartlepool.

He added: “I found him to be extremely relaxed.

“During our chat I also said that Hartlepool has a by-election coming up and he was very interested in that.”

The Seaton Ward by-election will be held on Thursday, October 25, after the seat became available because independent ward councillor Mike Turner, 59, handed in his notice due to increasing caring responsibilities.