A bedroom tax fighting fund could be set up to support those in social housing worst affected by benefit cuts.
Nearly 1,000 people in Brighton and Hove have had their housing benefit reduced by up to 25% because of changes introduced on April 1 that penalise those who have more bedrooms than they needed.
The Government claims the policy will free up homes for those on the waiting list while helping reduce the benefit bill by persuading people to downsize.
But, to back up the Green administration’s promise that no one will be evicted directly due to the changes, Brighton and Hove City Council has proposed allocating money to help those affected.
This includes diverting a one-off sum of £70,000 – about £74 for every tenant affected – away from its council homes repair fund to help support those struggling with rent payments.
An unspecified further sum has also been identified from another housing budget but this would have to be approved by the Government.
The issue will be discussed at the council’s housing committee meeting today (May 8) in Hove Town Hall.
Conservative councillor Mary Mears said she was concerned it was being brought before councillors for a decision before elected tenant representatives had their say.
Coun Mears said: “It feels like the Greens are paying lip service to the issue.”
The council said it has 949 people of working age “under-occupying” council accommodation.
On average, the 809 people with one spare bedroom are to lose about £600 a year in housing benefit.
The 140 with two or more spare bedrooms will see, on average, a £1,180 reduction.
Council workers have been visiting those affected and advised tenants to move out, take in a lodger, pay the shortfall or prioritise their expenditure.
A report in the name of Jugal Sharma, the council’s housing commissioner, said the local authority had “legitimate concerns about those households facing the most severe financial hardship”.
It said, in certain circumstances, extra financial support at an early stage could help the council save money by avoiding evictions and preventing homelessness.
The report added it also had to continue giving a “clear and consistent” message to tenants that rent had to be collected and arrears would be chased.