Council’s second refusal to call for removal of ‘bedroom tax’

Cllr Howard Bloom, leader of the Crawley Borough Council Conservative group
Cllr Howard Bloom, leader of the Crawley Borough Council Conservative group

The ‘bedroom tax’ has sparked another debate in the town hall.

At a meeting of the full council on Wednesday (October 23), members of the Labour Group tabled a Notice of Motion calling on Crawley Borough Council to oppose the new regulations.

The notice also asked the council to look into reclassifying what defined a bedroom – a suggestion branded “absolutely ridiculous” by council Leader Cllr Howard Bloom.

The NoM had previously been tabled and lost in April but Labour leader Cllr Peter Lamb (Lab, Northgate) said his group would continue to raise the issue “until the government or the council decides to do something about it”.

He added: “This is a policy which targets the vulnerable.”

The ‘bedroom tax’ is part of the government’s Welfare Reform, which cuts the amount of benefit people receive if they are considered to have one or more spare rooms.

The council has encouraged people affected to downgrade to smaller properties.

But Cllr Lamb said: “We’re asking people to downsize to properties that are not available. We don’t have the one and two-bedroom properties that this requires.

“Councils up and down the country are taking action against this – our council should be one of them.”

The meeting was told 716 people had been affected by the change in regulations.

Of those, 392 had received discretionary housing payments and 324 were in arrears – although 151 of those were already in debt before the ‘bedroom tax’ was introduced.

Some 98 people had downsized and a further 203 were on the waiting list to do so.

Cllr Richard Burrett, Cabinet member for housing, said: “People are down sizing, which means those on the waiting list with families can be housed. This is helping people.”

Dismissing the idea the council would call on the government to reverse the welfare reform regulations, Cllr Bloom said: “In 2007, the Labour government removed the subsidy for rented private accommodation. Did the Labour group go back to their own government then?”

The NoM was voted down.

Discretionary Housing Payments have been around since before the Welfare Reforms. It is a sum given to councils by government to provide financial help with rent costs for those on housing benefit suffering hardship. In 2013/14, CBC received £255,365, which it topped up with £27,180 from its own funds. The grant for 2014/15 will be announced in the new year.