‘It serves no purpose, it’s a punishment’: Bedroom tax slammed by Wigan councillors as families struggle to cope

By Tom Dyson

The bedroom tax has been slammed by Wigan councillors as an unnecessary law which is putting a financial strain on families.

Wigan and Leigh Housing is just one of many housing associations having to cope with the problem of families in rent arrears with more than 12,000 households affected in the Wigan and Leigh area alone.

Councillor Lawrence Hunt, of Wigan Central, said that he emphasised the fact that people with disabled families are suffering the most.

“We have a case of a man with learning difficulties who is estranged from his wife and he struggles financially,” he said.

“He has his two boys over at weekends and it’s a difficult job. This is an example of how families are affected. We need to keep them together and that should be a priority.

 “Rent and utilities arrears are going through the roof because of this vindictive piece of legislation and the effects are horrendous. It doesn’t serve a purpose. It’s a punishment, nothing else.”

Living in Wigan and Leigh Housing is becoming a big problem due to the lack of homes available and it all stems from this bedroom tax.

Councillor Hunt added: “The council need to be given money to build more homes because we have a housing crisis. We simply don’t have the properties. People will have to be evicted because of this awful piece of legislation.”

The welfare system is becoming another ingredient in this economic downfall as the welfare bills are shooting up. The number of people who cannot sustain themselves is a growing concern as money is drained through the tax.

Councillor Hunt believes the Universal Credit system is putting barriers in place to stop people working: “They are not addressing the problem of jobs. They have taken a retrograde step in getting people back to work and they are just scapegoating the unemployed,” he said.

Families are now wanting to move out through desperation more than anything else.

Councillor John Hodgkinson, of Wigan Independent, said: “People don’t want to move or downgrade to a smaller place. If they have to move, it might end up being six or seven miles away.”

He mentioned this case of a 58-year-old unemployed single man who lives in a three bedroom house and his disability allowance had been stopped. He had to fill in a form sent by the council for new premises but the man didn’t want to fill it in.

Councillor Hodgkinson added: “His employment pay was cut because he had two spare rooms and he ended up in arrears so he was given a discretionary grant. We bent over backwards to help him. It’s just unfair that people end up having to be moved.

“Something has to alter. Things have to change. I don’t know how it will be resolved but I imagine it will be a gradual change.”

Image courtesy of Luke Hayfield via Flickr, with thanks.

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