Total hit by bedroom tax loophole revealed

Wigan Bedroom Tax Campaign members protest outside Wigan Town Hall
Wigan Bedroom Tax Campaign members protest outside Wigan Town Hall

HUNDREDS of Wigan households were affected by a glitch in bedroom tax regulations earlier this year, new figures reveal.

A total of 402 social housing tenants across the borough have now had the money that was falsely claimed repaid and the loophole is now closed.

Housing experts revealed in January that the under-occupancy tax could not be applied legally to residents who had lived and claimed from the same residence since 1996.

A spokesman for Wigan Council said: “We pro-actively identified which households were affected and reinstated the housing benefit lost through the under-occupancy tax rules.

“The Government closed the loophole on March 6.

“We also granted those claimants affected a discretionary housing payment to the value of the under-occupancy reduction between March 6 and March 31 2014 so that they only became subject to the under-occupancy reduction from their housing benefit from April 1.”

The under-occupation tax, known as bedroom tax, was introduced in April 2013 and reduces benefit payments by 14 per cent for one unoccupied bedroom and 25 per cent for two, and affects around 4,000 families in the borough.

It was estimated that 40,000 households nationwide will have been affected by the error.

But the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said the numbers were more like 5,000 tenants.

The glitch occurred because long-term claimants were still covered by old regulations that were left unchanged by the welfare reforms.

Borough MPs have called for the controversial tax to be scrapped and Labour has pledged to repeal it should the party win the next election.

Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue said: “Over 4,000 people in Wigan have been hit by this cruel, unfair and costly tax on bedrooms.”

Ministers say the reforms have helped solve overcrowding and save money.