Updated: Tuesday, 18th December 2018 @ 10:53am

Penalise the poor: Bedroom tax set to hit Salford’s most vulnerable the hardest, claims Hazel Blears MP

Penalise the poor: Bedroom tax set to hit Salford’s most vulnerable the hardest, claims Hazel Blears MP

By Robbie Gill

Bedroom Tax will ‘penalise tenants who are already struggling to make ends meet’, according to Salford and Eccles MP Hazel Blears.

The tax will affect 14,000 homes across Manchester at an annual cost of around £75million – with Salford set to be one of the worst hit areas.

There is also growing concern that there simply are not the houses available for those being asked to downsize, leaving locals in a Catch-22 situation.

Ms Blears said: “While it is important to find ways of reducing costs to the public purse, especially in the current climate this policy could have a damaging impact on the lives of some of our poorest families.

“The problem both here in Salford and across the country is that there is a serious shortage of social housing.

“So even if a family is forced to agree to go through the upheaval of moving from a home they may have occupied for years, there will often be no suitable smaller house for them to move into.”

These fears have also been shared by Salford Green Party Chairman Joe O’Neil.

He said: “We can’t see any way they can accommodate even a fraction of the people who are under-occupying.

“What makes us more concerned is the fact that along with this attack we are also seeing changes within community charge benefits running parallel.

“So many people are suffering from day to day to make ends meet, and to lose benefits in the region of £40 per month would be a disaster in waiting.

“Salford is fighting to combat child poverty, drug and alcohol issues and recently gun crime and I am a past politician working as an activist.

“I see what the people who sit in plush carpeted rooms of the town hall fail to see and I am worried for the future.”

Mr O’Neil also reported speaking to one Salford widow who was expected to downsize after wanting to keep her spare room to allow her father to visit her to look after her child.

Salix, the housing association who control one half of the city’s housing, are promoting the idea of a house swapping scheme to overcome the problem.

A spokesperson for Salix said: “Moving to a smaller home, shared tenancy, mutual exchange or taking in a lodger need to be considered to enable tenants to make the best choice.”

While at face value this seems to be a reasonable solution, the reality is that the homes are simply not available.

They went on to admit they cannot cope with demand from tenants who are under occupying.

“At present the challenge is to match household members to homes appropriate for the family size,” the spokesman added.

“We acknowledge the fact that we do not have sufficient stock to meet demand or the rate of home swaps and exchanges to effectively re-allocate all our affected tenants.”

City West, the private firm who control the other half of the city’s housing, have also claimed they are doing all they can to offer help to those who are in need of new accommodation.

They have introduced a Rightsizing property, which encourages people under-occupying to downsize their property, and claim to offer small grants in special circumstances.

Matt Jones, Assistant Director of Communities and Neighbourhoods’ at City West Housing Trust, has admitted that the demand for housing is outstripping supply.

He said: “There is more demand for rightsizing than properties that are available.

“We are encouraging customers to consider swapping properties which can resolve two households’ problems at once.

“Overall, demand for our properties is high, we received more than 30,000 bids for the 750 properties we advertised between April and August this year, and this is likely to increase.”

This further highlights the dangers of this tax hitting the poorest people in a city which is one of the most badly affected by poverty in the country.

Mr Jones added: “We realise that people have made homes in our properties and may not want to move, so we'll also work with them to provide support to try to help them remain in their homes.”

The prospect of having to move away from their long term residencies is unlikely to appeal to disgruntled locals.

City West are planning to provide 73 new homes - though these are seven miles out of Salford city centre, in Little Hulton.

Mr Jones said: “City West are developing new affordable homes to help with demand, with work about to start on the construction of 73 new homes in Amblecote, Little Hulton.”

The reality of this coalition imposed tax is set to have an unspeakably damaging affect on some of the most vulnerable members of the community.

Ms Blears has been keen to highlight how stark the effects on those who are living below the breadline in Salford are set to be and called on the government to rectify this inequality.

She said: “Building more affordable homes and creating jobs to help get people off housing benefit should be the priority of the coalition.

“Instead, this policy will penalise tenants, including disabled people, who are already struggling to make ends meet.”

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