Manchester’s most vulnerable living without food and heating as city hardest hit in North West by bedroom tax

By Ben Butler

Vulnerable residents in Manchester are living without food and heating as alarming new figures show the city is the hardest hit by the bedroom tax in the region.

Shocking data from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) revealed 11,360 households in Manchester have been hit by the bedroom tax, while people are left out of pocket an average of £724 per year.

The bedroom tax, introduced in April this year, cuts the amount of benefit people can get if they are deemed to have a spare bedroom in their council or housing association home.

Cllr Nigel Murphy, Manchester City’s Council’s executive member for environment, said: “Those people who have the least, now have even less, and the money they do have is being used to pay the shortfall in their rent and not on basic human requirements like food and heating.

“It is now time for the government to rethink this unfair and unsustainable tax.

“We would also urge anybody who is facing financial hardship because of the bedroom tax, please speak to your landlord – they are there to help.”

The bedroom tax or the spare room subsidy also requires housing benefit claimants to downsize and move house – some who have lived in the same home for many years.

However, Cllr Murphy added that there is a shortage of smaller properties meaning many have nowhere to move and become trapped in a property they cannot afford.

Minister for Employment, Esther McVey, said the policy had been introduced to bring fairness back to the system.

She said: “It cannot be right that there were 2.1 million households on the housing waiting list in Great Britain, yet about one million spare rooms in social housing that were funded by benefits.

“On top of this, 375,000 families have been living in cramped, overcrowded accommodation in England and Wales alone.

“Clearly this was wrong and fairness had to be brought back to this outdated system.

“By removing the spare room subsidy, we can start to ensure the right properties go to the families who need them most.”

In total, 35,308 homes in Greater Manchester have felt the effect of the bedroom tax, worse than North West neighbours in Merseyside, Lancashire, Cumbria and Cheshire.

While the total residents in the North West hit by the bedroom tax stands at 82,840, equating to an average amount lost per year of £978.

Rob Warm, Head of External Affairs at The National Housing Federation, who analysed the data, said: “These new Government figures show that the bedroom tax is affecting thousands of people across Manchester – for many, there isn’t even anywhere for them to downsize to.

“There simply aren’t enough smaller social homes available, and the cost of private rented housing is rising all the time.

“The North West is particularly hard hit with the most people affected by the bedroom tax in the country.”

Mr Warm also said the discretionary housing payment given to local councils by the government to help those who can’t downsize simply is not enough to help everyone.

Mark Krantz, Campaign Coordinator of No Bedoom Tax, who has marched in a number of demos against the bedroom tax, attacked the new figures.

“These figures show that those with the least are being hit the hardest by the Bedroom Tax”, he said.

The government introduced the changes as part of the 2012 Welfare Reform Act in an attempt to make the benefits and tax credits system fairer.

Since its introduction, campaigners have launched the petition ‘Repeal the Welfare Reform Act 2012’, attracting 16,857 signatures.

At a recent Autumn party conference, Labour leader Ed Milliband vowed to repeal the bedroom tax if his party return to power in 2015.

Mr Krantz added: “Campaigners against the hated tax have shown that this tax is unfair and must be abolished.”

Image courtesy of potato junkie, with thanks

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