Wednesday, 03 September 2014

Letters written to local authorities criticise forthcoming changes

Tory MPs voice bedroom tax worries

Conservative MPs have written to councils raising concerns about the impact of the ‘bedroom tax’ - despite voting for the measure in parliament.

Freedom of Information requests by Inside Housing reveal several Tory MPs are worried about the impact of the policy on some of their constituents. Under the change social housing tenants of working age will have their benefit reduced if they have spare rooms.

Andrew Selous, Conservative MP for south west Bedfordshire, wrote to Central Bedfordshire Council on 18 January criticising the way a couple of constituents whose properties have been adapted to provide disabled facilities would be affected. He said he did not think the policy of ‘just giving a short-term’ DHP is appropriate ‘because the situation could be exactly the same at the end of the period’.

‘Surely the people who have disabilities whose houses have been adapted specifically to help them live in them should be in a separate category,’ said Mr Selous.

Disabled people who require a room for an overnight carer and pensioners are exempt from the penalty, but others such as disabled people with resident carers and war widows are not. The government has made £25 million of discretionary housing payments available for people whose homes have been adapted.

Another Conservative, Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price, also voiced concerns about the bedroom tax’s impact on a woman with spare rooms who may have to downsize to another property despite having recently paid for a new cooker to be fitted. In a letter dated 28 August to Thurrock Council, Ms Doyle-Price said: ‘Will any compensation be made for any works that [name redacted] has undertaken?’

Both Mr Selous and Ms Doyle-Price voted for the Welfare Reform Bill when it was going through parliament last year. They also voted to reject House of Lords amendments which would have exempted people from the penalty until suitable alternative accommodation is available.

Other Conservative MPs who voted against amendments to the bill have written to the council to make the case for constituents to receive DHPs.

Tory MPs Richard Drax, Henry Smith, John Randall, environment secretary Owen Paterson, and Alistair Burt also enquired about help for constituents affected by the tax.

The office of deputy prime minister Nick Clegg wrote to Sheffield Council on 6 December to ask for more information about a constituent’s circumstances.

Constituent conundrums

  • Richard Drax, MP for west Dorset, wrote to Weymouth and Portland Council on 10 December to ask that a disabled tenant in receipt of a war pension receive a discretionary housing payment so he can stay in his adapted house.
  • The office of Henry Smith, Conservative MP for Crawley, wrote to Crawley Council to ask for a ‘sympathetic review’ of a case in which a woman was concerned that she would be hit by the tax when her terminally ill pensioner husband dies as she is of working age.

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