A survey for Somerset County Council has revealed the scale of hardship caused in the county by the bedroom tax and the other welfare cuts of the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition. Labour says it shows the need for the bedroom tax to be scrapped.
Across Somerset, thousands of tenants are having to pay more rent because the government says they have a “spare bedroom.” Hundreds of them want to downsize to smaller homes – but can’t because none are available. And district councils are having to step in to rescue hundreds of tenants who can’t afford their rent.
The impact of welfare cuts on people in Somerset is analysed in a report by Somerset Intelligence ( http://www.somersetintelligence.org.uk/welfare-reform-impact-monitoring/ ) It reveals:
• 2,651 tenants in social housing across Somerset have been hit by the bedroom tax
• 827 tenants want smaller homes but can’t get them and are on the waiting list
• Thousands of people in privately rented homes have also suffered from cuts in housing benefit
• 1,899 tenants had to be given emergency financial help by district councils last year– an increase of 185 per cent
• Cuts in help with council tax have brought a big increase in unpaid bills. Councils in Somerset took out court summonses last year against 29,755 people – a 37 per cent increase
Labour has promised to scrap the bedroom tax when it comes to power. West Somerset Labour Councillor Maureen Smith said:
“This report shows that the bedroom tax and other welfare cuts are causing widespread hardship. It also highlights the shortage of one and two bedroom properties and the burden placed on district councils by this failed policy.
“One of the most iniquitous aspects of the bedroom tax is that people with long term disability, whose homes had been adapted to enable them to live at home, were not exempted. It contradicts the government’s apparent wish for people to be supported in their own homes and shows the Conservatives inability to understand the lives of people coping on low incomes.
“Building homes which are affordable to live in and meet tenants’ needs is urgently needed, but is only being done on a pathetically small scale under the Tory government. Labour are promoting the use of cooperative housing and land trusts to build housing. This is proving successful in other areas including Bristol and Exeter and the approach is widely used in Europe and the USA. Anyone who would like to know more local possibilities for this can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org “