United against the ‘bedroom tax’ in Leeds

REPRIEVED: Charles Cunningham, centre, with protesters at Leeds Combined Courts.
REPRIEVED: Charles Cunningham, centre, with protesters at Leeds Combined Courts.
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Campaigners have handed a report to the United Nations to highlight the impact of ‘bedroom tax’ in Leeds.

Campaigners from Hands Off Our Homes claim nearly half of Leeds council tenants have been unable to pay their rent in full.

They are calling on the Government and local authority to scrap the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ which was implemented in April.

Campaigners gathered outside Leeds Combined Courts today (Nov 7) after a tenant feared he would be faced with eviction.

Charles Cunningham was given a 42-day reprieve by the County Court after falling behind with his rent to Sanctuary Housing.

The 49-year-old, who lives in Little London, said he uses his spare bedroom to enable his daughter to stay with him.

Campaigners say they believe he is the first person in Leeds to face the courts in relation to the ‘bedroom tax’.

John Davies from Hands Off Our Homes said: “I believe that this is the first case down to the ‘bedroom tax’.”

The spare room subsidy penalises council housing and housing association tenants if they are deemed to have a ‘spare’ bedroom by reducing their housing benefit.

Debbie Locke from Hands Off Our Homes said: “At the UN hearing in Manchester Raquel Rolnik said that our human rights relating to housing are now going backwards in this country, and the bedroom tax is a big part of that.

“This tax has turned something, which should be a guaranteed - a home which is suitable for your needs - and turns it into a lottery.

“But what no report can really show is just how shocking and distressing it is, to hear story after story of despair and struggle, of people just not knowing which way to turn.

“A person’s home might be the one thing that gives them security, the place they’ve built their life around for many years: nobody should be living in fear of having that taken away from them.”

COUNTING THE COST OF A SPARE ROOM

New housing benefit regulations, introduced on April 1, have led to reductions in benefit payments to tenants assessed to be under-occupying their accommodation.

Council tenants with one spare bedroom have had a housing benefit cut of 14 per cent.

Those deemed to have two or more spare have had a reduction of 25 per cent.

Thousands of tenants have fallen into rent arrears in Leeds.

Council bosses confirmed plans in May to redesignate the number of rooms officially registered as bedrooms in around 850 properties in their housing stock.

The changes mean about 240 of the homes will no longer be classed as under-occupied.