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Dudley Council votes to scrap the bedroom tax
12:55pm Tuesday 8th October 2013 in News
DUDLEY Council last night approved a motion to urge the government to abolish the controversial bedroom tax.
Members of the Labour-controlled council voted 37-27 in favour of calling on the government to axe its spare room subsidy which means council tenants with spare bedrooms must downsize or see their housing benefit cut.
Brockmoor and Pensnett councillor John Martin presented the motion to a meeting of the full council after working with a cancer suffering constituent affected by the coalition government’s housing benefit changes.
He said: “This tax is causing widespread concern across the borough. It affects the most vulnerable in society through no fault of their own.”
The Labour councillor said an equality impact assessment conducted by the government estimated two thirds of households affected by the bedroom tax include a person with a disability.
He branded the subsidy “a shockingly bad piece of legislation” which “disproportionately affects the disabled” and he said he believes ultimately it will force tenants to move to smaller but, in many cases, more costly private rented accommodation which will lead to higher benefit payments.
The councillor said instead the government should be investing in new social housing by creating new homes and he added: “I sincerely hope the government will rethink the bedroom tax.”
Dudley Council’s chief executive John Polychronakis will now write to the Secretary of State for the department of work and pensions to ask the government to repeal the spare room subsidy.
But leader of Dudley’s Conservative Party - councillor Patrick Harley - later told the News: “It won’t achieve anything. The government won’t do anything about it.
“It’s just a propaganda exercise by the Labour group.
“In Dudley most people affected by the spare room subsidy don’t want to move and are either taking the reduced housing benefit or getting the spare room occupied and those who want to move are being offered alternative accommodation.”
He also said the council could reclassify some of its properties to help disabled people affected by the changes - for instance by referring to a typical three-bedroom home with a box room as a two-bed residence.
Cllr Harley said he would be happy to engage in cross-party working to help tackle the problem of social housing but he slammed Dudley’s bedroom tax vote as “rigged” - saying Labour councillors shut down discussions before all of their Tory colleagues had aired their views.
He said: “They didn’t want to listen to anybody else - that’s not what democracy is about.”