Bedroom Tax ‘is not helping families’

Fleetwood's sprawling network of homes
Fleetwood's sprawling network of homes

A Fleetwood councillor says the Bedroom Tax has not helped the shortage of family homes in the port and she is calling on it to be scrapped.

Coun Rita Hewitt, the Labour councillor for Rossall, spoke out in the wake of a new report which painted a worrying picture of housing in Fleetwood and across the Fylde coast in the next 15 years.

The Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), an independent body, says up to 50,000 homes across the coast are currently unsuitable to be lived in, and more than 1,000 people in the area are on a waiting list.

The SHMA, commissioned by the councils of Wyre, Blackpool and Fylde, says 100 new homes a year will be needed in Fleetwood alone, as a predicted jobs boom will bring more people into the area.

It also says Fleetwood’s high concentration of social housing and deprivation presents a unique challenge.

Coun Hewitt says all of this is not helped by new under-occupancy regulations – also known as the Bedroom Tax – which effectively reduces housing benefit for each spare bedroom someone has in a social housing home.

She said: “The Government’s idea was the Bedroom Tax would effectively move single people out of three- and two-bedroom homes and free the houses up for families.

“Instead, what has happened is that there aren’t enough one-bedroom homes for them to move into, so they have to stay put – and by doing so have their benefits cut.

“Instead of making lots of family homes available, the Government has just put these people in debt because they can’t afford to pay their rent and they’ve nowhere to move into.

“It should be scrapped and the Government should look at more fair and sensible ways to deal with housing issues.

“We need more affordable homes instead of penalising poorer people in social housing.”

Coun Gordon McCann, Wyre’s cabinet member for economy, said Wyre was looking at ways of bringing empty homes back into use and improving existing properties to offset the pressure of having to build thousands of houses.