A majority of Councillors at the full Calderdale Council meeting on 2nd October voted that Cabinet should re-examine the Council’s policy for awarding Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs), to make sure that the awards are made to as many residents as possible who need help with the Bedroom Tax
They also voted for a review the Council’s Housing Strategy to make sure that the supply of affordable housing meets the needs of residents, especially smaller households.
These actions were proposed by Cllr James Baker (LD) and seconded by Cllr Battye, as an amendment to a Bedroom Tax motion proposed by Cllr Jenny Lynn (Lab).
Cllr Bob Metcalfe (Lab) told the meeting that from 2013/14, Calderdale Council has only spent £177,188 of the £383,941 that the Department of Work and Pensions has provided for DHPs.
Roger O’Doherty, Secretary of Calderdale Against the Bedroom Tax, said,
“The position with regard to DHP is more complex in that people who apply in Calderdale tend to get it IF the form is completed with professional assistance AND it demonstrates that the applicant is destitute. If you have any savings you won’t get DHP.
The motion fails to address the areas where the council can actually act positively in providing more information to tenants about DHP and support to complete forms.
AND recognising the successful appeals taken to tribunal, and awarding housing benefit on that basis instead of continuing to make Housing Benefit assessments largely on the basis of information provided by landlords.”
Review of housing strategy to make sure there is enough affordable housing for small households
The Council heard that a shortage of local affordable/social housing for smaller households was causing a problem for tenants who had been hit by the Bedroom Tax, because there are not enough small houses for them to move into.
Instead, affected tenants are either having to stay put and pay the Bedroom Tax for their “extra” bedroom, or move into far more expensive privately-rented accommodation.
Cllr James Baker (LD) said that although the LibDems had supported the Bedroom Tax in the past, it hadn’t worked so they no longer supported it. He added,
“You’re never going to get the deficit down by squeezing the poorest in society.”
Cllr Battye (LD) said that she wanted to double check if the Council could help more people than it had so far awarded DHPs to, and if the Council has the right housing strategy so that affordable housing is being built in the right place for the right people.
Cllr Tagg (Con) protested that it wasn’t a Bedroom Tax, it was a spare room subsidy. And that there was plenty of 3 and 4 bedroom social housing available in Mixenden, because no one wanted to live there.
A Labour Councillor commented that Cllr Tagg’s remark was both offensive and beside the point, because what was needed was housing with fewer bedrooms – not 3 and 4 bedroom houses – so that people affected by the Bedroom Tax had somewhere to move to.
Council Leader Cllr Baines to tell Ian Duncan Smith that Council condemns Bedroom Tax
Cllr Jenny Lynn’s motion asked the Council Leader to write, “in the strongest terms” to Ian Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions, telling him that Calderdale Council condemns the Bedroom Tax, which has damaged the local economy and hit the most vulnerable of Calderdale’s residents.
Council Leader to ask Calderdale MPs to vote for Affordable Homes Bill
Cllr Lynn’s Bedroom Tax motion also asked the Council Leader, Cllr Baines (Con) to write to the MPs for Halifax and Calder Valley, asking them to support Andrew George MP’s Affordable Homes Bill.
This is a private member’s bill that has gone some way through the House of Commons. It would amend the Bedroom Tax policy by providing exemptions for affected residents who cannot find a smaller house or flat to move to.
Cllr Dave Draycott (Lab) asked Cllr Baines for an assurance that he would write to Ian Duncan Smith condemning the Bedroom Tax in the strongest possible terms and also write to local MPs as the motion requires.
Cllr Baines said he would do as the motion requires.
He also said that he supported the LibDem amendment to the motion, that requires the Council to
- re-examine its policy for awarding Discretionary Housing Payments, to make sure that the awards are made to as many residents as possible who need help with the Bedroom Tax
- to review its Housing Strategy to make sure that the supply of affordable housing meets the needs of residents, especially smaller households
Roger O’Doherty, from Calderdale Against the Bedroom Tax, said,
“It’s good that they have passed the motion such as it is. The Andrew George bill is woefully inadequate and I fear that it will become the Labour Party position which would seriously dilute its commitment to abolishing the bedroom tax.”
Information about Andrew George’s Affordable Homes Bill.
Here is a Calderdale Against the Bedroom Tax report on Manchester Tenants’ Bedroom Tax evidence to the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing.