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Brighton and Hove Council could pay for ‘bedroom tax’ arrears
Buy this photo » Protesters campaigning against the bedroom tax marched through Brighton on Saturday, March 16
Council chiefs could foot the bill for tenants who fall behind on their rent payments due to the controversial “bedroom tax”.
About 1,400 tenants in social accommodation in Brighton and Hove could have their benefits reduced by up to £600 a year from April 1 for having a spare room in their property.
Government ministers claim the “spare room subsidy” policy will reduce waiting lists and help reduce the country’s welfare bill.
But, with critics warning it could see people miss rent payments and made homeless, Brighton and Hove City Council’s Green administration has declared no one will be evicted due to arrears accrued solely due to the new law.
Bosses claim they are the first city in the country to make the commitment – which could cost it hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.
It comes as dozens of protesters marched through the centre of Brighton and held a rally at the Clock Tower on Saturday in protest at the government changes.
Liz Wakefield, the chairman of the council’s housing committee, said: “The so-called spare room subsidy is yet more immoral and harmful legislation from this morality-free government.
“As Greens, we cannot throw people out on to the streets just because they’re unable to pay it.”
Details of the policy will be brought to the next housing committee meeting on May 8.
Coun Wakefield added steps would be put in place to ensure that tenants did not take advantage of the new proposals.
But opposition councillors claim the bill will come out of the council’s housing revenue account, which is made up of tenants’ rent money.
They add it will mean funds being taken away from budgets to repair homes and build new properties.
This is as the local authority has its budget reduced by tens of millions of pounds in the coming years.
Conservative councillor Garry Peltzer Dunn said: “I would want to see the details before saying yay or nay but I think this needs to be considered with great caution.
“I can understand not wanting to evict any individual but this could be seen to be encouraging people to get into arrears.”
Labour group leader Gill Mitchell said she felt there were possible “legal, ethical and practical issues” with the policy.
She said: “It’s something that we would want to support in principle but we need to see the small print beyond the headline as this proposal could have unintended consequences for other tenants.”
Talking point: How will the bedroom tax impact on you? Should Brighton and Hove City Council pick up the bill?
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