Calderdale Protest Against the Bedroom Tax campaigners were “gobsmacked” at some of the information they received, when they asked Calderdale Council what it was doing to oppose the Bedroom Tax and support people suffering under it.
This was what a full Council meeting had committed to on April 24th 2013.
Answering the campaigners’ questions at the full Council meeting on 27th November, Councillor Swift said that around 1200 households in Calderdale are liable for bedroom tax.
Roger O’Doherty, speaking on behalf of Calderdale Protest Against the Bedroom Tax said,
“The Council told us that 29% of the 1200 households who are liable for bedroom tax have applied for Discretionary Housing Payment, but only 16% have received it. That means only 55% of applicants received it. We were a wee bit gobsmacked at how low that figure was. 45% of the small number of applicants were turned down.”
All Calderdale residents in housing need can ask the Council’s Housing Options Service for advice and information, via Halifax Customer First or at firstname.lastname@example.org
The suffering caused by the Bedroom Tax was revealed in the autumn, when Manchester tenants addressed a meeting called by the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing.
Council to look into changes to rules for Discretionary Housing Benefit payments
According to the Council, many tenants have not yet applied for help and are only now starting to seek help as they get into arrears. The Council expects a significant number of DHP applications in the near future.
Councillor Swift’s written answer said,
“We do want to ensure that this limited fund is used as effectively as possible, and Cllr Sweeney and myself are meeting with officers shortly to see if there is a need to propose any changes to the current rules for DHP.”
No commitment on no Bedroom Tax evictions
Calderdale Protest Against the Bedroom Tax wanted to know what the Council had done about its agreement to ask Registered Social Landlords not to repossess houses where arrears are substantially due to tenants struggling to cope with the impact of the ‘Bedroom Tax’.
Pennine Housing 2000 is the main Registered Social Landlord in Calderdale, and has around 800 tenants who have to pay the Bedroom Tax.
After listening to the Council’s information, Roger O’Doherty said,
“I can’t give certain figures for Pennine Housing 2000’s eviction rate but I thought it was high. I don’t have comparison figures. There is also the fact that many people just vacate their homes before the case reaches court.”
Councillor Swift’s written answer says that Ministry of Justice “repossession” statistics for July-October 2013 will soon be released. They will show whether repossessions in Calderdale are increasing. Councillors’ meetings with Calderdale registered social landlords suggest that evictions from social housing in Calderdale are “now becoming a possibility in a few cases.”
Roger O’Doherty said,
“Councillors gave us no commitment on no evictions. Pennine Housing 2000 reserve the right to evict for arrears, whether due to Bedroom Tax or not. What we got was a commitment to look at the Discretionary Housing Payment and see if they couldn’t do better at helping people apply and be more flexible. We were also told that the application system has been changed to give people affected by the bedroom Tax greater priority when applying for rehousing.”
When is a room a bedroom?
Councillor Swift said that Registered Providers are investigating re-classifying some 2 bed properties as 1 bedroom where feasible. Some have already been re-designated. Pennine Housing 2000 has re-designated 125 two-bedroom flats in Mixenden and a further 57 at Range Court.
Councillor Swift’s written answer also linked to Bedroom Tax Tribunal rulings that upheld tenants’ appeals against the classification of certain rooms as bedrooms. But he warned against accepting these rulings as a change in policy about what counts as a bedroom. The Department of Works and Pensions is seeking permission to appeal against these Bedroom Tax Tribunal rulings.
2015 – too late for people in desperate straits now
After the Council meeting and lobby of Councillors, Roger O’Doherty said,
“Labour councillors were very keen to declare their opposition to the Bedroom Tax, but waiting for a labour government will leave many people moved out of their homes and deep in debt. A declaration that a Labour government will abolish the Bedroom Tax doesn’t get Labour councils out of their responsibility to help people who are in desperate straits now.”