Cllr Nevin on Policy and Resources Scrutiny
December 7, 2014 4 Comments
Cllr Cheryl Nevin writes:
Last’s weeks Policy and Resources Scrutiny meeting was interesting for the fact that Leader of the Conservative Group John Lamb took exception to my labeling the “spare room subsidy” as the “bedroom tax”.
Definition of a subsidy
When was additional money given to Council tenants as part of this so called “subsidy”?
Definition of a levy /or tax
I rest my case.
We learned that 200 South Essex Homes residents have been affected by the “Bedroom tax” or “Benefit Caps”, attributable for approximately £10,000 of the rent arrears now owed by tenants of Southend Council. Many tenants are willing to move to smaller properties but are awaiting suitable swaps, or vacated properties to be re-located to, whilst still accruing debt in rent arrears. The Labour Party calls this unfair and will abolish this unjust, immoral tax.
There may be a further impact on rent arrears when Universal credit is introduced in February 2015, Southend Council is working towards reducing that risk, by working in partnership with DWP, who will be supplying on site guidance and advice.
I asked the portfolio holder to “seek assurance” from the DWP that they have identified those most likely to be affected and conducted a systems “trial run” to limit the impact to claimants when the switch over occurs. Also, to make sure “proper risk assessments have been completed” as often changes in benefits claims cause real hardship to tenants.
I am glad to see that the Council has opted to keep the Essential Living Fund for emergency situations to March 2019, following the withdrawal of government funding for our most needy and vulnerable residents.