Growing fears over impact of ‘despicable bedroom tax’ in Norwich

Campaigners protest on the steps of City Hall about welfare reforms they say will hit the vulnerable

Campaigners protest on the steps of City Hall about welfare reforms they say will hit the vulnerable. - Credit: Archant

Government changes to cut housing benefit for tenants with spare rooms is already having a 'severe' impact on Norwich families, said city council leaders.

Controversial changes to reduce housing benefit payments, dubbed the bedroom tax, came into force in April, which is affecting more than 2,000 householders in the city.

Leaders at Norwich City Council told members on Tuesday night that they have already seen an increase in rent arrears since the deduction from people's benefit.

Cabinet member Bert Bremner said the 'despicable tax' was already hitting local people hard. He added that he was worried about the impact on the local economy with council house and social housing tenants having less money in their pockets.

'The impact is really severe and puts tremendous trauma on families. There is also the economic factor for the city and I am frightened that local shops will close,' he said.

Mr Bremner said 2,219 tenants in Norwich - 14pc of householders - had been affected by the bedroom tax, which would lead to a loss of £1.36m to the Norwich economy a year. A total of 1,901 tenants had a one bedroom deduction from their benefit, which is an average benefit loss of £10.87 a week and 318 householders have had a two bedroom or more deduction, with the average loss at £20.62 a week.

Mr Bremner added that at the end of May, 575 more households were in arrears than at the end of March. He said that the city council had contacted 60pc of those affected to offer them advice.

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The government argues the changes under the Welfare Reform Act will help cut the £23bn annual bill for housing benefit, free up more living space for overcrowded families and encourage people to get jobs. One spare bedroom has resulted in housing benefit being reduced by 14pc and by 25pc if there are two or more spare bedrooms.

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