4 Aug 2013

Bedroom Tax: sustaining tenancies in Stroud

Philip Booth, Green Party District councillor for Randwick, Whiteshill and Ruscombe writes:

Here's my piece that was read at the recent Stroud Against the Cuts meeting......

Thank you to Stroud Against the Cuts for organising this meeting. Apologies I am unable to be with you. I read yesterday a tweet by Stroud Conservatives saying:  'Good news re the High Courts judgement re Benefit Reform. Perhaps now Councils will use the DHP responsibly rather than for political ends.'

This is shocking - and shows a complete lack of understanding about the impact of benefit reforms on disabled people. The Bedroom Tax is one of the most hideous and shameful assaults on tenants and some of our more vulnerable citizens. It is also nonsense - as we all know there is a shortage of housing - tenants are being made to bear the cost - or pushed into the private sector which will increase the housing benefit bill.

As a councillor I have sought action from Stroud District Council on this issue since February. To be fair the Council has put together a more comprehensive list of actions than many councils - indeed the Local Government Association are promoting this approach as an example of best practice. This is in part, as help is offered to people in the District who are now liable for the bedroom tax - that support can and does include the Discretionary Housing Payment. However more can be done.

Since the elections I have been on the Housing Committee. At the first meeting I gained support to establish a Task and Finish group. This group, which I chair, includes a tenant representative and has so far met a couple of times to look at a range of measures. It will report to the Housing Committee in September. If I am not happy that the measures go far enough then we could look to a motion or other action that could lead to improvements.

However in order to ensure we get the changes we are seeking, I need more evidence. This week, I would hugely welcome examples of actual local cases, so that we can show the impact of the tax - I particularly would like to hear from people who consider not enough has been done. I realise this is a considerable ask of people who are already facing challenges.

Thank you again to Stroud Against the Cuts. We need to show our total opposition to these dire benefit reforms.

Hopefully more news on this soon.

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