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‘Bedroom tax’ hits Tower Hamlets claimants while council rents go up on same day

PUBLISHED: 18:36 22 March 2013 | UPDATED: 12:02 25 March 2013

Thousands of families face rent rises on council housing estates in London’s deprived East End from April 1—while those on benefits face up to a-quarter of their allowances being stopped on the same day with the controversial new “bedroom tax”.

Around 2,500 families on benefits will have 14 to 25 per cent stoppages if they have rooms not being slept in, under the government’s Spare Room Supplementary.

It coincides with weekly council rents going up on April 1 by an average £4.39 for 22,000 tenants on estates run by Tower Hamlets Homes, the local authority’s housing wing, which was agreed in January.

Rents currently start at £75 for a studio flat and rise to £181 for the council’s only eight-bedroom property.

The four-and-a-half per cent average increase is in line with the government formula based on property size, number of bedrooms and average manual wage in a given area.

But the rent rises mean a double whammy for council tenants on housing benefits who also face stoppages if they have rooms not being slept in.

“The ‘bedroom tax’ is deeply unfair and perverse,” said Tower Hamlets council’s Labour Group housing member John Pearce.

“This is a flawed policy—the government has no understanding of the fundamental situation facing most families.

“It’s not reasonable for the government to put people at this level of stress.”

Those hit hardest are the disabled or parents who are separated who have shared access to their children, Cllr Pearce pointed out.

“The disabled usually need the space for equipment or for their partner to be able to sleep separately if their disability is severe,” he added.

Labour councillors are pressing the Town Hall, which is responsible for dishing out government benefits, to use discretionary payments to help families in desperate need.

Claimants get between £50 and £100 a week. But from April 1, those with a spare room face having 14 per cent stopped, or 25 per cent if they have two or more spare rooms. The average loss will be £14 for council tenants, £16 for those under housing associations.

A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council said money had been set aside in next year’s budget to deal with the impact of the ‘bedroom tax’.

He added: “We are deeply concerned about the impact of benefit changes on the lives of families in the borough. This is why we are investing £1 million to cushion some of the blow to vulnerable residents that will be hit the hardest by central government cuts.”

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