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Council chief calls for meeting with minister over bedroom tax

MINISTER CALL ... South Tyneside Council chief executive Martin Swales, above, is calling on housing minister Kris Hopkins, below, to meet those affected by the bedroom tax.

MINISTER CALL ... South Tyneside Council chief executive Martin Swales, above, is calling on housing minister Kris Hopkins, below, to meet those affected by the bedroom tax.

A GOVERNMENT minister has been challenged to a face-to-face meeting with South Tyneside councillors concerned at the impact the ‘bedroom tax’ is having on borough citizens.

South Tyneside Council chief executive Martin Swales is to write to Tory MP Kris Hopkins, the current housing minister at the Department for Communities and Local Government, calling for the meeting.

It comes after a motion expressing concern over the scheme was carried unanimously at a full council meeting last week.0

The motion – signed by ten South Tyneside councillors – stated that the tax ‘discriminates unfairly against the poorest in our society’ and welcomed a commitment by Labour Leader Ed Miliband to ‘repeal this draconian legislation’ if the party returns to power at next year’s General Election.

A total of 2,770 council tenants in South Tyneside have been affected by the tax, which has seen a cut in housing benefit for households with one or more bedrooms deemed to be spare.

Hundreds of council tenants in the borough have fallen into rent arrears since its introduction.

Nationally, one in three council tenants affected by cuts to housing benefit have fallen behind on rent since the policy took effect in April, according to figures from the Trades Union Congress.

And South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck has already hit out at the controversial policy.

She said in the Houses of Parliament that it was having an “appalling” impact on households around the country, and on councils’ ability to tackle the housing crisis by building new homes.

The Labour MP said those with one spare room lose an average of £8.83 per week and those with two are £14.57 worse off

Since March there has been an £81,000 rise in council rent arrears, with the total amount owed to the local authority now standing at £1.8m.

The motion stated: “South Tyneside Council notes with concern that 2,770 council tenants have been affected by the bedroom tax.

“The council believes that the bedroom tax discriminates unfairly against the poorest in our society, and that by forcing residents to leave their homes can lead to instability of close-knit local communities and neighbourhoods.”

Twitter: @shieldsgazchris

 

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