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Protest Lobby as Bedroom Tax Petition Triggers Council Debate

Tuesday, 05 November 2013 11:12
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Stroud Against the Cuts and Unite Community will lobby Stroud District Council from 6pm on November 28th 2013 at Ebley Mill. At 7pm we will enter the council chamber, where the receipt of a 1200 signature petition will be acknowledged and enable an SATC member to speak on the bedroom tax, before councillors debate a motion. Contact Chris Moore 07810 732379 for more details

Please join us to show your opposition to the bedroom tax and call on Stroud District Council to commit to:

  • No evictions due to bedroom tax arrears
  • Write off existing arrears due to the bedroom tax
  • Only designate rooms larger than 70sq feet as bedrooms (as according to the 1985 Housing Act)
  • Increase the council's house building programme to meet need
  • Use its legal powers to bring empty homes into use
  • Put pressure on Housing Associations not to evict, including calling on them not to use 'Ground 8'.

Please bring placards, banners, musical instruments and/or whatever else you feel will make for a lively and colourful protest. The leaflet for the event is displayed below, followed by a press release.

PRESS RELEASE – STROUD AGAINST THE CUTS – 05/11/2013 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

BEDROOM TAX PETITION TO TRIGGER COUNCIL DEBATE

 

 

 

Contact: Chris Moore 07810 732379 from SATC, or Sue Powell 07947 632437 from Unite Community | This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Summary: On Friday 8th November, Stroud Against the Cuts and Unite Community will hand in a petition to officers at Stroud District Council [1]. 1,200 Stroud residents are demanding a ‘no-evictions’ policy, adopted by councils elsewhere in the country, and for SDC to “Write off rent arrears for Bedroom Tax and top up the government’s discretionary housing payment fund”, among other demands. Collected in only a few weeks, the signatures are sufficient to give the group an opportunity to speak at the Council’s next meeting on November 28th, when they will also be lobbying the council from 6pm [2].

The reductions to Housing Benefit Entitlement, introduced in April 2013, more commonly known as the Bedroom Tax mean that social housing tenants in receipt of housing benefit payments, excluding those in receipt of a state pension, will face reductions of 14% if deemed to have one spare bedroom and 25% if deemed to have two spare bedrooms [3]. Nineteen tenancies have been already been forced to move as a result of the bedroom tax, and in August 2013 it was reported that 347 Council tenancies forced to find £9.10-£37.50 more each week in order to continue living in the properties they currently occupy. The local press has previously reported on the case of a 61 year-old disabled man, living alone in a two bedroom council apartment, who faces a £16.32 cut to his housing benefit [4]. One of the petition signatories, 18 year-old Amanda Jones from Brimscombe’s 60 year-old mother will be deemed to have a ‘spare bedroom’ and forced to pay the bedroom tax when Amanda is forced to leave her family home due to other changes in housing benefit.

Sue Powell from Unite Community said: “From talking to the public, it is clear many people are angry at the stress and anxiety being caused to some of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society due to increasing rent arrears and the threat of eviction. Two-thirds of those affected are disabled. There are not enough 1 and 2-bedroom properties available for people forced to downsize. People simply cannot afford to pay their rent when their housing benefit is reduced, so people face the prospect of being forced from their homes, for the ‘crime’ of having a spare room.”

Stroud District Council has admitted there are insufficient properties for tenants affected by the bedroom tax to move to. The ‘Council New Build Programme’ report stated, ‘demand is primarily for one and two bedroom properties’. In April 2012 there were 2,703 households on the SDC’s waiting list, nearly double the 2002 number. By October 2012 there were 1,859 applicants for one bedroom social housing property and 848 applicants for two bedroom properties. [5]

 

Chris Moore from SATC added: “While SDC plans to build a total of 150 social housing units by March 2018, this will not cover the shortfall. Many people will be forced into unsuitable and/or enormously expensive temporary or private rented accommodation, and as a result the total cost of housing benefit will actually rise.[6]”

 

The UN Special Rapporteur on Housing, Raquel Rolnik, has requested: “that the so-called bedroom tax be suspended immediately and be fully re-evaluated in light of the evidence of its impacts on the right to adequate housing and general well-being of many vulnerable individuals.” [7]

 

ENDS

Click read more below for notes

 

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

[1] The petition is pictured above. Stroud Against the Cuts is a community group formed in November 2010, see: www.stroudagainstcuts.co.uk. Unite Community is a “community membership” initiative by Unite the Union to extend membership to the unemployed and others unable to join the union previously. See: http://www.unitetheunion.org/growing-our-union/communitymembership/ (Sue Powell is the local contact 07947 632437).

[2] The details of the next SDC meeting can be found here: http://www.stroud.gov.uk/democracy/meeting.asp?meet_id=1522&com_id=CNCL. Previous Lobbies of SDC by SATC have seen dozens of people protest outside and attend council meetings.

[3] “from 1 April 2013, working-age social tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit will experience a reduction in their benefit entitlement if they live in housing that is deemed to be too large for their needs” (www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/sn06272.pdf‎). This policy is officially called the ‘Under-Occupancy Penalty’, but is widely known as the ‘bedroom tax’.

[4] See: “Bedroom Tax is 'deplorable' says disabled Stroud resident hit by policy”, http://www.stroudnewsandjournal.co.uk/news/10283518.Bedroom_Tax_is__deplorable__says_disabled_Stroud_resident_hit_by_policy/.

[5] See: SDC Housing Committee, 20 June 2013, Agenda Item 8: Council New Build Programme report: http://www.stroud.gov.uk/info/members/cms_documentation/Ag08-Council_New_Build-COMP.pdf

[6] A report on a research project by the National Housing Federation summarised: “180,000 households under occupying two bedroom social homes, yet only 85,000 one bedroom properties are available in a given year. This is before considering the 970,000 people on waiting lists for one bed properties. This would mean that many people would need to move into considerably more expensive privately rented accommodation, with a one bed flat costing an average of £1,500 more per year than a two bed social housing property. The National Housing Federation suggests this could lead to an increase in benefit claims of £143m a year. Two thirds of those affected by the bedroom tax are disabled people. The government has said that an extra £25m will be available in the form of Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) to try and address this. However, this would only amount to £2.09 each per week going to those receiving DLA. This problem is compounded by recent research which suggests 3 in 10 disabled people who applied for DHP were turned down. The same research found that of those disabled people refused DHPs "nine out of ten are cutting back on food or bills, nearly four out of ten are cutting back on specialist mobility transport, and more than a quarter are cutting back on medical expenses such as medication, therapies and monitoring health conditions". What’s more, DHP by its very nature is discretionary and is a finite pot of money.”  Some Stroud properties have been adapted for the needs of disabled people, some through local authority grants (the national average cost is £6,000). If people are forced to move, not only will resources have been wasted but SDC could face re-adaption costs.

[7] See the Press Statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing: End mission to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 29 August to 11 September 2013  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=13706&LangID=E

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 November 2013 09:08