Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Council to use HRA funds to limit bedroom tax

A council has got permission from the housing minister to use money from rental income to set up a £420,000 fund to support tenants affected by welfare cuts.

Swindon is planning to use money from its housing revenue account to set up an ‘emergency fund’ for tenants hit by the ‘bedroom tax’ social housing under-occupation penalty.

Normally HRA funds can only be spent on housing, so the council has had to get housing minister Mark Prisk to approve the proposal.

Under the ‘bedroom tax’, which came into force on 1 April, social housing tenants of working age who are on housing benefit are having their payments cut if they have one or more spare bedrooms. Swindon estimates 1,100 of its tenants will be affected.

The council has not yet finalised how its emergency fund will be used, but expects to support families including someone with disabilities who cannot be expected to move, people living in rural areas who cannot downsize, and ‘other people in exceptional circumstances’. Councils have also been allocated a share of £30 million of discretionary housing payments to help people hit by the penalty.

Russell Holland, Swindon Council’s cabinet member for housing, has been working with the government since October to obtain a specific provision for the council’s plan.

He said: ‘As a Swindon councillor it is my priority to do my best for council tenants. I understand why benefits reform is necessary, but I believe it is important that the council has the ability to provide assistance for people in exceptional circumstances.

‘A grant scheme funded by and for council tenants is fair and will help to avoid hardship. I’m really pleased that the government has been willing to support this proposal.’

Mr Prisk said: ‘[Mr] Holland made a compelling case to use a small percentage of HRA funds to create this local emergency fund. I am pleased we have given this special provision so that Swindon Council can help those tenants in greatest need.’

Readers' comments (7)

Comments are only open to subscribers of Inside Housing

Already a subscriber?

If you’re already a subscriber to Inside Housing, your subscription may not be linked to your online account. You can link your subscription from within the My Account section of the website and clicking on Link My Account.

Not yet a subscriber?

If you don't yet subscribe to Inside Housing, please visit our subscription page to view our various subscription packages.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

sign in register

Newsletter Sign-up

Related

Articles

Resources

  • Downsizing with the bedroom tax

    17 July 2014

    The price for underoccupying a home is high for many vulnerable people. Jess McCabe visits Stoke-on-Trent to find out how landlords are attempting to help

IH Subscription