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Bedroom tax slammed for hitting poor

Diane Shipley
Diane Shipley

More than 1,500 households in Medway will have their benefits slashed as part of a shake-up of welfare reform which comes into force next month.

Under new rules, housing benefit will be subject to a bedroom tax if people have more bedrooms than it is ruled they need in their council or housing association property.

It is feared that the new tax will hit single parents and disabled people hardest as well as forcing some out of the area where they may have lived for generations.

Medway’s biggest landlord, mhs homes, has estimated that people will have to pay between £9 and £37 a week more, depending on circumstances.

On top of this, those in receipt of council tax benefit will no longer have the bill paid in full. In Medway, each household will have to pay a quarter of the total sum.

From April 2013, families of working age who are deemed by the government to under-occupy their property will have their housing benefit cut by 14% for one spare room and 25% for two or more spare rooms.

The amount you lose will depend on rent charges.

Diane Shipley's husband suffers from dementia yet faces paying £170 more a month because her home has three bedrooms.

The bedroom tax will not take into account of whether a room is single or a double bedroom.

Matthew Eddy, mhs neighbourhood services manager, said: "The most important thing is to plan ahead.

"If people do not pay their rent their home is at risk. We do not want that to happen.

"We have been able to tell our customers what the shortfall will be and how it will affect them.

"It may be they have spare rooms, they can take in a lodger or transfer to a smaller property.

"It may also be that they are eligible for discretionary housing payments."

Steve Wilkins, from Medway Against Cuts, said the bedroom tax would force many people into further poverty through loss of some of their housing benefit.

He said: "It’s not as if those in social housing will be able to move round the corner to a smaller property, so not only will they lose their homes, but they will be forced out of their communities.

See today's Medway Messenger for a special report on the bedroom tax.

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