LEEDS CITY Council has been warned it could lose money after it reduced the number of bedrooms it said were in some council homes.
New rules on housing benefit mean families in homes that have an empty bedroom lose some of their payment, a move described by critics as a ‘bedroom tax’.
Leeds City Council reviewed its council homes and decided there were 800 with rooms currently classified as bedrooms that could not actually be used in that way.
The Government has now told councils including Leeds that if they are found to have made changes just to help people avoid the so-called bedroom tax they will face a financial penalty.
Peter Gruen, council executive board member for neighbourhoods, planning and support services, said the changes had affected just 850 properties out of 850,000 in Leeds.
He said: “I am amazed that such a small change has led to a letter from a Minister to every local authority in the country to see ‘if we don’t believe you, we will come back and take some money off you.’
“If they spent as much time as they do chasing people out of social housing because they have an extra bedroom on stopping companies avoiding taxes then the country would be much better off.
“I don’t accept this is simply political but I do accept we are wholly opposed to the bedroom tax and don’t agree with mums and kids being dragged before the courts for eviction because they can’t afford to pay.”
Councils are responsible for paying out housing benefit which they then claim back from the Government.
In his letter, to council chief executives, Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud warns councils that the Government is ready to order independent investigations into why they have reclassified some of their housing stock.
Councils found to have changed classifications without good reason will have the amount they are paid in housing benefit reduced or stopped altogether.