David Marsh, Yorkshire Evening Post
Published on Thursday 6 September 2012

The leaders of all Leeds City Council’s political parties have united to lobby the government over planned welfare reform changes they fear will disabled people and foster carers.

They want a rethink over the so-called bedroom tax, under which working age social housing tenants on housing benefit will lose a proportion of their benefit if they are deemed to have a spare bedroom.

Tenants will face a choice of either finding the additional rent money or moving to smaller accommodation.

The number of bedrooms a household will be entitled to is dependent on the number people living there. The calculation is similar to that currently used by the council to allocate properties. However, in Leeds exceptions are currently made for certain groups and, under the reforms, these will not be allowed.

Foster carers will not be entitled to additional bedrooms for children in their care, and separated parents will not receive an additional room to enable their children to visit on weekends. Disabled council tenants will not be entitled to an additional room for adaptations.

Councillor Keith Wakefield, council leader, said:

“Quite simply these new criteria are not fair. I am deeply concerned about the impact that the full range of welfare reforms is going to have on many people across the city, but this particular change is extremely worrying as it will affect some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

As a responsible council and social landlord, we are doing all we can raise our concerns and try to bring about changes to protect people from possible financial hardship or being forced to downsize.

Whilst we understand that the government has increased the amount of funding for discretionary housing payments, we believe it is still insufficient to deal with shortfalls to benefit in circumstances where it is necessary to provide additional space or beyond the reasonable control of tenants to downsize.

The council has for many years been committed to achieving better use of its stock by matching people to properties of appropriate size. We would be happy to work with ministers on these ideas.”