Press release from the TUC

TAXNearly one in four council housing tenants affected by the bedroom tax in areas across the South East have fallen behind on their rent since its introduction earlier this year, according to new figures released today (Thursday) by False Economy.

Figures provided by 19 local authorities across the South East in response to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests by False Economy show that since the bedroom tax was introduced this April, more than 2,000 council housing tenants – 23 per cent of all tenants affected by the tax in these areas – have been pushed into arrears.

Across Britain over 50,000 council housing tenants have fallen behind on their rent since April – nearly a third (31 per cent) of all tenants affected by the tax in the 114 local authorities that provided data in response to FOI requests.

However in some parts of the South East the proportion of tenants that have been pushed into arrears is far higher. In Brighton and Hove, 39 per cent of all council house tenants affected by the bedroom tax have been pushed into arrears since April. In both Adur and Gosport, 38 per cent of council house tenants have been pushed into arrears since April.

The data measures the impact of the bedroom tax over the first four months of its operation. But with emergency funding from councils rapidly drying up, the situation is likely to get far worse over the coming months, warns False Economy.

The bedroom tax, introduced under the Welfare Reform Act 2012, penalises council housing and housing association tenants if they have a ‘spare’ bedroom by reducing their housing benefit by 14 per cent or 25 per cent, depending on the number of spare bedrooms.

Those affected have included disabled people who currently use ‘spare’ rooms for their carers to sleep in or to store their equipment. Other affected tenants have offered to move but are unable to be re-housed as smaller properties are not available for them to move into.

The bedroom tax, combined with other social security changes as cuts in tax credits, falling real wages and high unemployment, is forcing many already hard-pressed families even deeper into debt, says False Economy.

False Economy is concerned that as only one in ten local authorities across Britain who responded to the FOI request have any form of ‘no eviction’ policy, many thousands of families risk losing their homes as a result of the bedroom tax.

Campaign Manager for False Economy Clifford Singer said: “These figures show once again the predictable chaos that has resulted from the hated bedroom tax. Together with the raft of other benefits cuts the government has forced through both this year and previously, the bedroom tax is driving tenants and families who were just making ends meet into arrears, and pushing those who were already struggling with the cost of living into a full-blown crisis.

“At a time when the government is actively trying to stoke a new housing bubble for purely political ends, we have people being punished for the lack of affordable housing and the decades-long failure to invest in social and council housing. The worst part is that these figures have been collated while councils’ emergency Discretionary Housing Payments are still available; they are being used up at record speed and when they run out, these figures will only get worse.”

TUC Regional Secretary Megan Dobney said: “The bedroom tax is hitting some of the South East’s poorest households very hard and one in five affected council house tenants are now behind on their rent.

“Ministers claim the bedroom tax is an effective cost-cutting measure, but the fact it is pushing up arrears right across the South East shows that it is not working. Instead local councils are being forced to waste more money on evictions and debt collection when they could be spending it on providing vital housing and services.

“The fact that ministers are happy to go ahead with a bedroom tax on disabled and low paid families, no matter how much chaos and misery it causes, says a lot about their commitment to fairness.”

Local authority Number of tenants affected by bedroom tax Number of tenants pushed into arrears since 1 April 2013 Proportion of tenants pushed into arrears since 1 April 2013
Brighton & Hove 886 342 39%
Adur 213 81 38%
Gosport 242 91 38%
Reading 347 130 37%
Milton Keynes 989 325 33%
Arun 190 46 24%
Dartford 312 72 23%
Guildford 323 73 23%
Woking 179 40 22%
Canterbury 387 86 22%
Southampton 1,267 276 22%
Oxford 601 114 19%
Portsmouth 1,298 242 19%
Wealden 181 27 15%
New Forest 366 49 13%
Tandridge 90 11 12%
Slough 431 22 5%
Gravesham 561 15 3%
Runnymede 126 2 2%
Total 8,989 2,044 23%

– The boroughs of Thanet, Dover, Fareham, Waverley, Winchester, Eastbourne and Crawley also provided partial data on households affected by the bedroom tax.

– More information about False Economy is available at www.falseeconomy.org.uk

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