Bedroom tax debate gets DDC all fired up

Social housing reform provides an incentive for those under-occupying their homes to move to a smaller property, according to a Daventry district councillor.

At a meeting on Wednesday (May 15), Cllr Steve Osborne said he would not support a motion lobbying the pensions secretary Ian Duncan Smith to revoke his policy, known as the bedroom tax, which sees housing benefits payments reduced for those under-occupying their homes.

The motion, put forward by Labour leader Cllr Wendy Randall at a DDC meeting, suggested the council consider all possible interventions, including discretionary housing payment, to protect local people and actively support the building of new social housing in the district.

Cllr Randall said: “In our district there are more than 400 social tenants under-occupying two-bedroom houses but there is a real shortage of one-bedroom homes. We will end up spending more on housing benefit moving people to privately rented housing.”

Cllr Cambell told the story of one constituent who was only able to remain in her home due to the intervention of professionals including Daventry MP Chris Heaton-Harris. Cllr Campbell argued intervention of this kind would not be possible in every case and some would lose out.

She said: “The bedroom tax penalises people for their children growing up and leaving home and penalises people when they are hospitalised, bereaved and the disabled.”

However Cllr Richard Atterbury said he believed the tax is a catalyst for change and there is more money available to help those struggling.

He said: “This financial year 69 discretionary payments (DP) have been awarded compared with 50 last year on the whole. Our grant for DPs has also increased from £7,000 
for 2012/13 to £74,000 for 2013/14 in recognition of the demand.”

Cllr Steve Osborne said it was not morally right for someone to be subsidised and to be under-occupying their home and there needed to be an incentive for them to move to a smaller home. Both councillors agreed they did not wish to lobby the pensions secretary.

The motion failed to gain support from other DDC councillors at the meeting.