Friday, 4 October 2013


Cllr.Michelle Fenner

Cabinet Member on Thanet District Council

Last night at Full Council I put forward a motion against the bedroom tax, called such euphemisms as ‘power to reduce housing benefits’, ‘under occupancy penalty’ or ‘spare room subsidy’.

As a Labour Councillor I was proud that my party is firmly committed to repealing this bedroom tax in 2015.

This motion was agreed on by a majority of Councillors.

This tax is nasty, squalid, unfair and impractical.

It is nasty because it targets the weakest, poorest and most vulnerable here in Thanet and nationwide.

It is squalid because it was ill-thought-out and is proving to be full of contradictions and doesn’t address the real issues about under-occupation.

It is unfair because no local authority has a stock of properties that people being told to “down-size” can move into

And it is impractical because the only choice most people have is to give up a secure council or housing association home and move into a private rented, potentially insecure one where the rent would be much higher – and the consequent cost to the public purse much greater.

In the last couple of weeks we have seen the first batch of appeals against this tax in the Courts – and I am pleased to point out that in the first hearings the Judge upheld four out of the five of them, showing that even the Judiciary don’t think much of this badly-written change to benefit legislation.

This tax is one that bypasses elected local councils, who have no power to fix the amounts deducted nor to decide which properties are affected.
We firmly believe that local authorities should be the bodies that deal with under-occupation – not the bureaucrats in Whitehall and Tory MPswho know little and care less about social housing.

Under-occupation is best dealt with by the “carrot” and not the “stick”. Building more smaller-sized council properties that can be offered to our tenants is the long term solution – not forcing some of our poorest residents to use money that should be used for food or heating on paying for a shortfall in their housing benefit.

On average the tenants affected by this legislation will pay £750 a year because they cannot move to anywhere and therefore they have to pay it. This is why it is a tax, and this is why it is an unfair tax.

This motion is a reasonable declaration of where we stand and what is practical for T.D.C. to do.

In voting in favour of this motion the Councillors joined the voices of concern from the Local Government Association, the National Housing Federation, the Chartered Institute of Housing and virtually every other respected national organisation in the field of housing and local government.   
This motion was not only about trying to mitigate some of the impact of this tax but also, as a progressive Council that takes its social responsibility seriously sending a strong message to the government against this damaging piece of legislation.

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