A YEAR after the bedroom tax was introduced there have been renewed calls for it to be scrapped.
The law,known officially as “under-occupation” regulations, is designed to free up space in council homes by encouraging tenants to move to smaller properties.
If a tenant who receives housing benefit has a spare bedroom the money they get is reduced. Critics have slammed the policy for making people’s lives a misery and forcing them to cut back on other vital expenses, such as heating or food.
The Secretary of Swindon Tenants’ Campaign Group has said it is time for the law to be repealed as it is not having any real effect.
He said: “Contrary to the propaganda of the Government and the mass media, living on benefits is not a ‘lifestyle choice.’ “More and more people in work depend on benefits to get by. Given the increase in precarious employment, including ‘zero hours’ contracts, more and more people struggle to scratch a living from month to month.
“That’s reflected in the Housing Benefit figures for Swindon. “The latest available figures show that in the year up to February 2013 the number of new Housing Benefit claims was 5,480. The number of ended claims was 5,560. “This reflects a situation where people are on and off of benefits regularly as their circumstances change.”
Martin says the policy is simply not having the desired effect because there are not enough smaller houses for people to move into. Although he says there are more small houses in Swindon than in many other towns, it is still not enough for all the families which need to downsize.
As a result he says people are suffering as they struggle to make up the cash elsewhere.
“Despite all the stories of human misery and tragedy related to the ‘bedroom tax’ over the course of the last year, this shameless Government refuses to accept that this is a failed policy,” said Martin. “It has been reported that only six per cent of tenants nationally have downsized. “Even a government Minister, in quibbling over this figure, could suggest no higher than eight per cent. It’s high time for the bedroom tax to be abandoned.”
North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson defended the policy, saying it was helping families trapped in smaller council accommodation move into bigger properties.
He said: “This is crucial to making sure family sized homes are prioritised for families. For those who oppose this I challenge them to speak to the families trapped on the housing waiting list, living in accommodation too small.”