North East Labour MP launches bid to scrap bedroom tax

North East Labour MP is to propose legislation to scrap the 'unjust' bedroom, a policy which is causing hardship for many vulnerable people

Iain Buist Ian Lavery, Labour MP for Wansbeck
Ian Lavery, Labour MP for Wansbeck

A Labour MP is to urge Conservative and Liberal Democrat backbenchers to support his attempt to abolish the bedroom tax, which has hit 30,000 households in the North East.

Ian Lavery will propose legislation to scrap the Government’s policy of cutting housing benefit for social housing tenants who are considered to have a spare room.

The penalty is “unjust and unfair”, he will say.

Ministers argued that the penalty would encourage people to move to smaller properties and save around £480m a year from the spiralling housing benefit bill.

But Mr Lavery, Labour MP for Wansbeck, said he was challenging MPs on the Government benches to support him - because the savings were set to be much less than predicted while the policy was causing hardship for many vulnerable people.

He will highlight high-profile cases such as a mother-of-two who killed herself after being told she had to find an extra £80 a month to pay her rent, and a widow who had to leave the home where her husband’s ashes were scattered in the garden. He said: “This bedroom tax undeniably has been a disaster for individuals, for families, for disabled people, for those most vulnerable in society. It will not raise the finances Government said it would raise.

“It’s causing problems in the social housing sector. It’s an unmitigated disaster.

Bedroom Tax protesters in Newcastle City Centre
Bedroom Tax protesters in Newcastle City Centre
 

“My view is there are two trains of thought. Either the people who supported the bedroom tax knew fully what the consequences were of the tax, and felt they were acceptable to society.

“Or the other train of thought is they were unaware at the time of what the consequences were. I will tell them what the consequences of this dreaded tax has been, and then they cannot say they were unaware, and they can make their own decision.”

Mr Lavery will ask the Commons to allow him to introduce a Bill to axe the tax, seconded by Gateshead MP Ian Mearns, Easington MP Grahame Morris and North West Durham MP Pat Glass, all Labour MPs.

In January, The Journal revealed that Newcastle City Council was considering “re-designating” whole tower blocks of two-bedroom flats as one-bedroom properties.

The authority was concerned that flats were standing empty because tenants were reluctant to move in and potentially face the bedroon tax penalty.

Two-thirds of council housing tenants were currently behind on their rent, double the number before the bedroom tax was introduced.

And the authority was in the process of evicting 139 families – although it insists it is also trying to help them stay in their homes.

Coun Joyce McCarty, deputy leader of Newcastle City Council, told a Commons inquiry 5,500 households in the city were hit by the policy.

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