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Hardship fund set up to help Wirral tenants struggling with 'bedroom tax' debt
A HARDSHIP fund has been set up to help Wirral families struggling to pay the so-called “bedroom tax.”
Council leader Phil Davies said the Coalition Government measure had already hit thousands people of working age and that local families had lost out to the tune of £2.6m in benefits because of the charge.
He said: “It is horrendous – it is the poll tax by another name.”
Councillor Davies announced the authority would be setting aside £50,000 as a hardship relief fund, saying “this is the least we can do to mitigate the situation.”
The Government gave local authorities a fund for discretionary housing payments following the introduction of the under-occupancy charge or
But Cllr Davies revealed the cash only covered £1 in every £5 cut from benefits.
In a hard-hitting notice of motion to go before a meeting of the ful council on Monday, Cllr Davies claims the tax is forcing people on low incomes out of their homes and into debt.
It states: “It is hitting the most vulnerable in society the hardest and is forcing people to loan sharks and food banks.”
And it calls for urgent action in Wirral to deal with the growing demand on advice services from tenants unable to pay their rent, which is “approaching crisis point.”
Earlier this week the Globe revealed 800 tenants had applied to Wirral Council for financial support because they could not pay their rent with the introduction of the charge.
Councillors were warned that the discretionary payment fund set up to help struggling tenants could run dry and that cash might have to be diverted from other budget to avert hardship.
Under welfare reforms, tenants lose a percentage of their housing benefit if their homes are deemed to be “under-occupied.”
A council report said that at the start of the year, Wirral had 4,228 households classed as “under-occupied” and who have had their housing benefit cut.
Of these, 901 were subject to a 25% reduction – average £22 a week – for having to or more “spare” rooms. The rest were 14% reductions for having one spare bedroom – an average weekly loss of £12.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph in March, works and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith said Britain can no longer afford what he called the "spare room subsidy".
"Our social housing stock is squeezed and we need to use it better.
"That means we need to put an end to the unfair situation where the taxpayer is subsidising people to have homes, paid for by the state, with spare rooms they do not need.
"This is effectively a spare room subsidy. Britain can not afford it and nor can the taxpayer. And from April this will end."
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