Video: Norwich revealed as area worst hit by bedroom tax in east of England

Households with one spare bedroom have housing benefit cut by 14pc and by 25pc for two or more spare

Households with one spare bedroom have housing benefit cut by 14pc and by 25pc for two or more spare bedrooms. - Credit: PA

The first Government figures on the impact of the so-called 'bedroom tax' have revealed that nearly 34,000 families in the East of England are losing out on an average of up to £1,000 a year since it was introduced.

And Norwich is the worst hit area in the region, with 2,900 homes losing out on an average of just under £700 a year, according to Government figures analysed by the National Housing Federation (NHF). Second-placed Basildon saw 1,630 homes affected.

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The under-occupancy penalty, which came into force on April 1, has also hit hard in the districts of King's Lynn and West Norfolk and Breckland, with each seeing more than a 1,000 households paying around £750 a year on average.

The policy was introduced to encourage tenants to downsize from properties that are larger than needed in order to ease the Government's two million strong waiting list for homes.

Households with one spare bedroom have housing benefit cut by 14 per cent and by 25 per cent for two or more spare bedrooms.

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But it has since been branded as 'cruel' and 'discriminatory' by detractors, who claim it targets the disabled and lower income families, while pushing others into rent arrears.

The Government's figures also show that nearly two thirds of the families affected contain someone with a disability.

Ed Bober, from Norfolk Coalition Against the Cuts, said the policy was impacting the most vulnerable.

'It is not achieving its objectives because of a lack of supply of smaller properties, local authorities are not saving money as was planned, and in some cases they are even spending more because people are becoming homeless as a result of this tax and then need to be housed in bed and breakfast accommodation,' he said.

Mark Harrison, from disability campaign group Equal Lives, said the policy was 'ideologically driven'.

'It's pernicious and discriminates against certain people, rather than addressing the barriers that disabled people are facing,' he said.

The Government has made a discretionary housing payment fund available to councils to distribute to those who have 'good reason' for not being able to afford their housing costs.

Earlier this year the Blackwell family, whose son Deryn Blackwell has undergone a bone marrow transplant after a three-year fight with leukaemia and the rare condition Langerhans Cell Sarcoma, faced losing £64 a month because they had two children of the same sex under the age of 16. But after the Eastern Daily Press contacted Breckland council the family were told they would be excluded from the tax.

Callie Blackwell, who gave up her job along with her ex-forces husband to look after their son, said the change was 'a massive case of back-peddling'. Mrs Blackwell said sharing a room would have been impossible as Deryn had medication during the night and had poor mobility.

• Households hit by bedroom tax (Average amount lost per year)

Norwich: 2908 (£699.58)

Great Yarmouth: 754 (£693.79)

Waveney: 718 (£768.05)

South Norfolk: 614 (£721.99)

North Norfolk: 574 (£738.10)

South Cambridgeshire: 558 (£843.60)

St Edmundsbury: 526 (£765.91)

Suffolk Coastal: 526 (£790.13)

Babergh: 482 (£757.88)

Fenland: 470 (£768.94)

Broadland: 419 (£733.15)

East Cambridgeshire: 397 (£913.27)

Forest Heath: 304 (£783.85)

King's Lynn & West Norfolk: 1088 (£738.78)

Breckland: 1026 (£773.03)

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