Chief slams bedroom tax

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MORE than 100 council tenants in Wigan have moved into privately rented accommodation to avoid losing benefit under the Government’s controversial Bedroom Tax while some 4,200 households in the borough are being affected by it.

The shock figures were revealed by the chief executive of Wigan and Leigh Housing, Ashley Crumbley, who claims the moves will cost exchequer a further £70,000 per annum.

The news comes as a report by the United Nations criticised the Bedroom Tax, which Mr Crumbley said highlights the issues currently being found in Wigan borough.

Mr Crumbley said that the 4,200 homes in the borough affected now have the added burden of having to find the £2.9m a year Bedroom Tax.

But solving this by moving to smaller accommodation wasn’t easy for them. Mr Crumbley said: “In 2011/12 we had around 550 three bedroom homes available for rent and only 350 households wanting them.

“Yet we could not cope with the demand for our one bedroom properties as over 2,000 households were chasing around 800 one bed dwellings which became available that year.

“So this government policy aggravates our housing problem, our shortage of smaller homes.

“We simply did not have the accommodation to enable this large number of households to downsize.”

The Government has accused International academic Raquel Rolnik, the author other UN report, of undermining the impartiality of the organisation in a stinging rebuke of her findings after studying the effect of the Under-Occupation Penalty in Greater Manchester and London.

But Mr Crumbley today said the conclusions of the report represented “the reality” that the Coalition’s policy was “hitting hard” thousands of “fragile Wigan people who are on the fringes of coping with every day life”.

Mr Crumbley said: “The UN investigator has reflected what she found when she visited a number of UK cities including London and Manchester and I concur with her conclusions.

“Firstly it was disappointing that she did not give the government the courtesy of sharing her conclusions and listening to their side of the issue.

“This said, the UN investigator has reflected what she found when she visited a number of UK cities including London and Manchester and I concur with her conclusions. Her comments simply capture the reality.

“Discretionary Housing Payments are helping just for weeks because it takes far longer to rehouse when we have an overall shortage of supply.

“We need reform of the Welfare system.

““There was a simple answer available to the government on what is now commonly called the Bedroom Tax.

They could have taken a phased approach as they are doing for Universal Credit applying it to all new tenancies and allowing initially one spare bedroom.

“At least it would have reduced the move of my tenants into the more expensive private rents sector.

“My staff are dealing with tenants who cannot cope and sadly this includes people where we have real concerns around suicide.

“I have come across two more cases just this week. We are very grateful to the borough partners who are helping ,including the food banks.”