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West Cornwall councillors call for exemptions to bedroom tax

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: January 27, 2014

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TWO west Cornwall councillors have urged Cornwall Council to lobby the Government over its bedroom tax.

Sue James, who represents St Just-in-Penwith, and Mario Fonk, of Gulval and Heamoor, want the council to seek exemption from the spare room subsidy tax for those unable to move to a smaller home and for those who live in specially adapted homes.

Mrs James said: "We are concerned that some people, living in social housing, are the victims of a financial penalty for having a spare room when there are no suitable smaller properties for them to move to. One of the changes introduced in the Welfare Reform Bill is the power to restrict the amount of housing benefit paid to tenants renting in the social housing sector where their home is deemed 'too large' for their family needs."

"We want the leader of the council and the chief executive to write to Ian Duncan-Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and all the Cornish MPs urging the Government to take speedy action to make these two groups exempt from the spare room subsidy.

"It seems morally wrong to reduce a person's entitlement to housing benefit when they are willing to move to a smaller home but there are not sufficient smaller homes for them to move into."

Cornwall Council is struggling to meet increasing demand for smaller properties, resulting in disabled people being more severely disadvantaged.

Mr Fonk said: "It is harder for disabled people in adapted housing to move home.

"Many disabled people hit by the tax are living in specially adapted homes.

"So if they move, the new home would have to be adapted for them, at substantial cost to the public purse.

"This does not make any sense, especially in the current financial climate when Cornwall Council is being forced to make huge savings due to the budget cuts from central Government." Cornwall Council does not collect data on the number of disabled tenants in adapted homes affected by the financial penalty for under occupation.

But councillors say they have anecdotal evidence that many are worried or struggling to pay bills.

The motion will be considered by Cornwall Council's homes and communities portfolio advisory committee and brought back to full council again next month.

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