Fleetwood residents have been hit harder by the controversial Bedroom Tax than is commonly believed, says a prospective parliamentarian.
Cat Smith, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood, points out that more than 400 people in the Wyre district have been hit by the Government’s controversial benefit cap, according to new figures.
Ms Smith says that given Fleetwood’s high percentage of social housing across the borough, the port’s residents will be bearing the brunt of it.
The figures, released on the first anniversary of the introduction of the charge, show that 416 people in the district were affected by the tax between May and November last year.
Ms Smith said: “Labour has already pledged to scrap this cruel and unfair tax if we win the next General Election.
“The Bedroom Tax hits vulnerable people in Fleetwood, some of whom are already really struggling to make ends meet and the Government’s own figures show that two-thirds of people affected nationally are disabled.”
The tax, also known as the under-occupancy rule, affects people living in social housing, except for pensioners. It means the amount of rent used to calculate how much housing benefit people receive will be cut by a fixed percentage – 14 per cent of the full rent – if the claimant has one extra bedroom. The amount rises to 25 per cent if they have two extra bedrooms.
The Government has defended the spare bedroom tax, stating that there are 1.8m families waiting for social housing and yet there are eight million spare rooms across the sector.
Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Eric Ollerenshaw says that if people live in private rented accommodation and receive Housing Benefit, these rules already apply and have done for nearly 20 years.
He said: “Hundreds of people in Wyre live in overcrowded accommodation and desperately need more bedroom space. This measure frees up the homes where people don’t need spare bedrooms, and I think a lot of people understand that.”
However, Ms Smith said: “A recent BBC survey suggested that just six per cent of those affected in the UK had been able to downsize to a smaller home. The Conservative-led Government has known all along that there were not enough smaller homes for people to move to and its figures show it intended to use the tax as a cash cow.”
Earlier this year, a loophole was discovered which exempted people who had been living in their social housing home for 17 years or more. However, this loophole has now been closed.
One Fleetwood resident affected, David Scarfe of Lindel Road, said: “One week I was exempt, the next I had to pay it again. It just isn’t fair.”