New research shows that the number of households in the North East affected by the bedroom tax has fallen by just 12 per cent during the last year, with seven out of eight affected households unable to avoid a cut in rent support.
The research, sourced under the Freedom of Information Act by TUC-backed campaign site False Economy, reveals that the number of households subject to the bedroom tax has actually risen by 5.8% across Northumberland – and barely fallen in most other parts of the region.
The research suggests that the vast majority of tenants hit have been unable to respond to the cut in their housing budget by moving to a smaller home, earning their way out of housing benefit or taking in a lodger as the government expected.
As rent arrears grow and the widely predicted shortage of vacant one-bedroom properties becomes more apparent, thousands of low-income households have had no choice but to try to absorb a significant cut in their income. Ministers will claim that the figures could improve over four or five years – but by then many tenants will have been buried under a mountain of unpayable debts, says False Economy.
The figures published today show the change in councils’ bedroom tax caseload –comparing the number of households who were subject to a reduction in their housing benefit when the tax was introduced last April to the numbers affected in February and March 2014. Some local authorities report an increase in their bedroom tax caseload, while most show only modest reductions.
If the bedroom tax had achieved its stated objective of significantly cutting both the under-occupation and the overcrowding of social housing, the caseload reduction would be significantly greater, says False Economy.
The research’s key findings include: Middlesborough Council is the only local authority in the North East whose bedroom tax caseload has fallen by more than a quarter. It has fallen by less than 10 per cent in Darlington and Sunderland, and actually risen in Northumberland.
Across Britain the number of households affected by the bedroom tax has fallen by 15 per cent.
A False Economy spokesperson said: “The bedroom tax has failed on each of the government’s stated objectives – just as so many warned it would.
“But the bedroom tax was never about make making housing allocation fairer or cutting the welfare bill. It was about putting social housing further out of the reach of those who need it, and driving families into a debt spiral that traps them in squalid overpriced private tenancies and jobs that don’t pay.”
Northern TUC Regional Secretary Beth Farhat said: “The bedroom tax is one of the most spiteful and unfair measures introduced by this government. It shows just how out of touch with ordinary people and the real world ministers are.
“Ministers seem not to know about the nationwide shortage of single bedroom social homes nor are they aware of any of the many valid reasons why tenants need more space than the government says they do.
“And the bedroom tax hasn’t stopped the housing benefit bill from going up. This is because wages have stagnated for the working poor and rents have increased as the decades long failure to build enough homes bites.”