‘Bedroom tax’ has not freed up Norwich council homes, claims City Hall leader

Norwich City Council leader Brenda Arthur.

Norwich City Council leader Brenda Arthur. - Credit: Archant 2013

The so-called bedroom tax has done little to free up bigger council homes in Norwich for larger families, the city council leader has claimed.

And Brenda Arthur, Labour leader at City Hall, says, in the first year since the government removed the spare room subsidy, 480 tenants who lost benefit and who did not have rent arrears at the start of April were now behind with their rent.

The government introduced the reform, dubbed the bedroom tax by Labour last year, saying it would encourage tenants to apply to downsize to smaller homes.

The changes meant people with one 'spare' bedroom lost 14pc of their eligible housing benefit for rent and those with two or more 'spare' bedrooms lost 25pc.

Ms Arthur said that, as of the end of March this year, 2,159 council tenant households in Norwich had seen a reduction in their housing benefit because of the changes.

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She said 1,848 had lost an average of £11.04 a week because they had one extra bedroom and 311 had lost £20.83 a week in housing benefit because they had two.

Ms Arthur said: 'Nationally, Norwich has one of the highest ratios for bedroom tax deductions against housing benefit caseloads and there is very little evidence to suggest that bedroom tax has promoted greater movement within the stock by freeing up larger properties for larger households.

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'The percentage of bedroom tax tenants in rent arrears is significantly higher across the board, showing the difficulty this element of welfare reform is causing.'

But a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: 'The removal of the spare room subsidy is a necessary reform to restore fairness to the system when around a quarter of a million people were living in overcrowded homes and around 1.7 million were on social housing waiting lists in England when the policy came into force.

'Already there has been a 10pc fall in the number of tenants affected by the policy in Norwich.

'Tenants are taking action in a number of ways from moving and using home swap services to finding work or increasing earnings.

'We have also seen 19,000 people across Great Britain successfully managing to downsize their home.'

What's your view? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE

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